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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

WATCH: Aston Villa’s McGinn hits the volley of his dreams

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Witness one of the best reactions in all of sports: The “I’m not sure how I did that and I don’t have the ego to pretend I do” face.

Aston Villa’s Scottish midfielder lashed an absolutely splendid side volley home with his left foot on Saturday, giving the Midlands side an equalizer with a shot that spun like a Roberto Carlos throwback.

[ MORE: Wolves draw at Man United ]

The nine-times capped Scotland man, 23, arrived from Hibs this summer and this was quite a hello to the Championship’s score sheet (He does have a pair of assists).

As JPW points out below, the technique and patience used in waiting for the headed clearance to fall to him so far out from goal is wonderful stuff. Goal of the season stuff, though there’s still plenty of season to come.

In “Gangs of New York,” Walter McGinn had 40-some notches on his stick. Make it one for John McGinn at Villa.

Gerrard, Rodgers set for long-awaited first Old Firm clash

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Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers only spent three seasons together while the former played for the latter at Liverpool, but those 36 months were plenty memory — for reasons both good and bad.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Man Utd, Spurs, Arsenal hit the road ]

The duo — with a bit of help from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, if memory serves well — nearly won the Premier League title in 2014, but the two reportedly had a falling-out over Gerrard’s role as he approached his 35th birthday the following season. In the end, Rodgers won out as Gerrard left his boyhood club for one an adventure with the LA Galaxy. Rodgers’ victory was short-lived, though, as he was fired five months later.

On Sunday, Gerrard and Rodgers will meet again — only this time, it’ll be as adversaries, each of them pacing the technical area for a Glaswegian giant (7 a.m. ET).

While much will understandably be made of the reunion, Gerrard insists there is no friction between himself and his former manager. He won’t treat Sunday’s showdown at Celtic Park any differently than he would the usual Old Firm derby, which never needs any additional spice added to it in the first place — quotes from the Guardian:

“I think everybody wants there to be a problem. I think they want a UFC match on the side. There’s no problem, [our relationship] is fine.

“I know a lot about him and his tactics. I know how he wants to play but Brendan is a clever coach and always has something up his sleeve. The reason why I respect him as a coach is that he always had something different. I think it would be very naive of me to expect what we see a lot of from the Celtic team. It wouldn’t surprise me if he tried something different to try and catch us cold. That’s what he would do as Liverpool manager.”

Rangers haven’t beaten Celtic in a league game since 2011. Gerrard and Co., have their work cut out for them, to say the least.

Late goal denies Gerrard a win in Scottish league debut

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ABERDEEN, Scotland (AP) — Steven Gerrard was denied a win in his first Scottish league game as Rangers manager by an injury-time goal on Sunday.

[ MORE: 2018-19 Premier League previews ]

Aberdeen struck in the third minute of stoppage time to earn a 1-1 draw against Rangers on the opening weekend of the Scottish Premiership.

Gerrard, the Liverpool midfield great, is in his first senior managerial role and has already led the Glasgow club through two qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

He looked set for a successful start in the league when his team recovered from having Alfredo Morelos sent off early on to take the lead through James Tavernier’s penalty.

“We were magnificent,” Gerrard said. “We were very good with 11 men, and even better with 10. Aberdeen had no idea against us. For 93 minutes, it was perfect.”

Celtic, the big rival of Rangers, began the defense of its league title with a 3-1 win over Livingston on Saturday.