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UEFA Nations League: Portugal win group with Italy draw

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in the UEFA Nations League…

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Italy 0-0 Portugal

Portugal were without Cristiano Ronaldo, but it didn’t matter as the reigning European champions blunted Italy and held on for a scoreless draw away from home to secure top spot in League A Group 3.

With Ronaldo taking a break from the national team, Portugal managed to win their first two games — one each against Italy and Poland — to arrive at seven points with one game against the last-place and already-relegated Poles remaining.

Turkey 0-1 Sweden

Andreas Granqvist scored the game’s only goal, from the penalty spot, to send Sweden second in League B Group 2 and set up a final-day showdown with Russia for the top spot in the three-team group to secure promotion to League A.

The two sides drew 0-0 in their first meeting, in Russia, last month. A win would send Sweden into the top flight, while a loss or draw would see the Russians battle Europe’s elites next time around.

Albania 0-4 Scotland

Likewise, Scotland put themselves in prime position to win promotion to League B with an emphatic victory over Albania. The Scots’ final-day clash with Israel — the nations are level on six points — will determine the winners of Group C League 1.

Because Israel won the first matchup, they would take the tiebreaker in event of a draw next week.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League

League C Group 4

Serbia 2-1 Montenegro
Romania 3-0 Lithuania

League D Group 3

Malta 0-5 Kosovo
Azerbaijan 2-0 Faroe Islands

Sunday’s UEFA Nations League schedule

League A Group 2

Switzerland vs. Belgium — 2:45 p.m. ET

League A Group 4

England vs. Croatia — 9 a.m. ET

League B Group 3

Northern Ireland vs. Austria — 12 p.m. ET

League C Group 2

Hungary vs. Finland — 2:45 p.m. ET
Greece vs. Estonia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League D Group 2

San Marino vs. Belarus — 12 p.m. ET
Moldova vs. Luxembourg — 12 p.m. ET

USWNT takes care of Scotland 1-0 on Morgan strike

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Alex Morgan scored her 98th international goal just before halftime as the United States women downed Scotland 1-0 in a friendly in Paisley, Scotland on Tuesday. It wasn’t the prettiest performance the U.S. has put forth this year by a longshot, but they got the job done despite a Carli Lloyd missed penalty. The win completed an undefeated 2018 for the U.S. women, a fabulous feat on the whole.

The United States was dominant throughout the opening 45 minutes, controlling 70% possession and holding the hosts to just a single shot. Morgan struck four minutes before the break as Mallory Pugh sent in a deep cross from the right flank that sailed just over the head of a leaping Lloyd but dipped right to Morgan unmarked at the far post. The 29-year-old finished with a powerful volley, connecting with the ball mid-flight and rocketing it inside the right post.

The goal is Morgan’s 18th of the season and 25th goal over her last 26 international matches. Otherwise, the United States held the possessional advantage but struggled to produce too many clear-cut chances. That changed after halftime.

The US came incredibly close to a second in the 53rd minute as Julie Ertz trailing the play received a layoff from Morgan, and while her effort deflected off a defender, it was saved wonderfully by halftime substitute Shannon Lynn who managed to get her leg up to block the deflection despite laying out for the initial shot.

The visitors were awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute as Kirsty Smith clipped the toes of Pugh in the box, and Lloyd took the spot-kick, smashing it against the crossbar and out of play with Lynn right there looking on, having guessed correctly.

Scotland had its best chance of the evening in the 75th minute as they won the ball in the attacking third and charged forward to Erin Cuthbert. She charged forward splitting U.S. defenders, but eventually the ball was cleared by Becky Sauerbrunn after a heavy touch by Cuthbert as she looked to take aim on the doorstep. They would get another good look five minutes ltaer as Julie Ertz was caught out by a wonderful chipped ball over the top toLana Clelland who rifled on net, but the shot was turned wide by Ashlyn Harris.

That was it for the game as both teams brought on late subs, but no more big chances were created. The victory is the 18th of the season for the United States, going a full calendar year without a loss through its 20 total games. The USWNT also extended its clean sheet streak to a whopping 884 minutes, extending nine full shutout matches, the longest streak since 2004/05 when they went 10 straight matches.

For Scotland, the defeat snaps a five-game winning streak that dates back to an April 5th loss to Switzerland in World Cup qualifying.

USWNT to play at Scotland, Portugal

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The Scottish Football Association has announced that their women’s team will host the U.S. women’s national team on Nov. 13 near Glasgow at the Simple Digital Arena in Paisley.

Fresh from qualifying from the World Cup, the USWNT are also said to be playing Portugal in Estoril on Nov. 8 with plans reportedly in place to scrap the January camp and play more games in Europe ahead of the 2019 World Cup in France next summer.

As for Scotland, they have just qualified for their first-ever Women’s World Cup and this game will be a key part of their preparation for the tournament in France.

Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr was delighted to line up the fixture, which has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

“We’re delighted to be welcoming the USA to Scotland this November. It represents a real opportunity for our players to test themselves against the best in the world as we prepare for our first FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer,” Kerr said. “The USA’s record in major tournaments speaks for itself, and the players cannot wait to go up against them. Having the best team in the world come to Scotland is fantastic and is a measure of how far we’ve come, when we’re attracting this level of opposition. Showcasing some of the finest players the women’s game has ever seen in Scotland is another opportunity to inspire the nation and young aspiring footballers.”

The USWNT last played Scotland in 2013, winning 3-1 in Nashville.

Jill Ellis’ reigning world champions dominated the CONCACAF qualifying tournament this month and are warming up very nicely ahead of the World Cup.

Clinical Portugal tops Scotland in friendly

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Alex McLeish is in a world of hurt as manager of Scotland as they fell at home to Portugal 3-1 after a host of missed opportunities and defensive errors. The visitors were at less than full strength, without Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva.

Scotland started the game in Hampden brightly and nearly had the opener as Beto was forced to make a save on his own man Sergio Oliveira. Portugal found its way into the game and missed a few chances before they bagged the first just before halftime as Wolverhampton winger Helder Costa beat Andrew Robertson to the far post where he cut inside and met Kévin Rodrigues’ cross for a sliding finish.

The hosts had chances, as Scott McKenna missed a header after the break. That would prove costly, as Portugal struck again with 19 minutes remaining through Eder. Stephen O’Donnell was the culprit as Eder beat him to the far post on a Renato Sanchez free-kick, earning an open header.

Finally, in the 84th minute, Portugal found a third as a giveaway in the midfield allowed the visitors to break. Bruma took the ball down the left flank and turned Graeme Shinnie completely around before unleashing a powerful shot into the top corner. Steven Naismith grabbed a consolation in stoppage time but the damage had been done.

The loss is the sixth in the last eight for McLeish, who admitted he was at fault for the recent struggles. “It’s never easy to lose and that was a tough weekend,” said McLeish after the match. “I have to stand up and be brave and take it forward. There’s other examples of managers being under the cosh – Michael O’Neil and the Russian camp and Stanislav Cherchesov persevered. I’ll always retain that determination.”

“It’s basic errors that we made and that is the disappointing aspect of it,” said McLeish of the mistakes at the back. “You expect the top teams to cut you open with majestic skills, but we were the perpetrators of our own mistakes. I thought there was a lot of good football. We had a good game plan, we were compact, we pressed when we had a chance to press. I know there was a few Portugal players rested but there was a still a hell of a lot of money out on that pitch.”

UEFA Nations League: Portugal win again without Ronaldo

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A roundup of all of Thursday’s action in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: Eden Hazard says he won’t leave Chelsea in January ]

Poland 2-3 Portugal

A Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal side fell behind Poland after 18 minutes — when Krzysztof Piatek, Serie A’s leading scorer (Genoa) after eight games, netted the opening goal and the first of his international career — but the reigning European champions proceeded to score the next three — courtesy of Andre Silva, Kamil Gilk (own goal) and Bernardo Silva — in a span of 21 minutes. Jakub Blaszczykowski pulled one back in the 77th minute, but 3-2 is as close as Poland would get.

Ronaldo hasn’t played for Portugal since the summer, prior to his $123-million transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus. Blaszczykowski became Poland’s all-time caps leader (103), while Robert Lewandowski made his 100th appearance for his country and assisted his former Borussia Dortmund teammate on the late consolation goal.

Portugal sits atop League A Group 3 with six points from two games, while Poland and Italy sit second and third with a single point.

Russia 0-0 Sweden

In League B Group 2, Russia and Sweden played to a scoreless draw. Russia sit top of the group with four points from two games, with Turkey and Sweden in second and third, on three and one points, respectively.

Israel 2-1 Scotland

Scotland sit atop League C Group 1 after two games played, but only barely. With three teams — the Scots, Israel and Albania — all on three points, there’s very little to separate one side from the next.

Scotland took a first-half lead on Thursday, thanks to Charlie Mulgrew’s penalty kick in the 25th minute, but a second-half collapse — completed by a Kieran Tierney own goal in the 74th — gave Israel their first victory and points of the competition. Having out-shot the visitors 25-7 (9-2 on target), the result was deserved.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League action

League C Group 4

Montenegro 0-2 Serbia
Lithuania 1-2 Romania

League D Group 3

Faroe Islands 0-3 Azerbaijan
Kosovo 3-1 Malta

Friday’s UEFA Nations League schedule (all games start at 2:45 p.m. ET)

League A Group 2

Belgium vs. Switzerland

League A Group 4

Croatia vs. England

League B Group 3

Austria vs. Northern Ireland

League C Group 2

Greece vs. Hungary
Estonia vs. Finland

League D Group 2

Moldova vs. San Marino
Belarus vs. Luxembourg