LISBON (REUTERS) - An early Helder Postiga tap-in gave Portugal a precious 1-0 home win over Russia at the Luz stadium on Friday that injected life into their World Cup qualification hopes and sent them temporarily top of Group F.
Postiga scored the opener after only nine minutes of the match on an unseasonably cold evening in Lisbon, pouncing on an inviting Miguel Veloso free kick from the left for his 26th goal for Portugal.
After some under-par performances, Portugal provisionally go top of the group, three points ahead of third-placed Israel and two in front of Russia who are still favourites to win the group with two games in hand.
Needing a win, the Portuguese pressed high up the pitch in front of a 55,000-strong crowd.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo had several shots on goal but was somewhat wasteful.
He hacked a great opportunity into the stands just before the half hour, missing from a perfect low cross into the box from Wolfsburg winger Vieirinha, who was selected ahead of Nani.
Russia failed to create many chances in the first 30 minutes but gained confidence as the halftime whistle drew near.
They almost scored from a long cross that keeper Rui Patricio palmed away. The ball ended up at the feet of forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who failed to direct it towards the open goal.
Minutes later, the visitors had a strong penalty appeal for what looked like a Fabio Coentrao handball in the box but the referee waved the protests away.
The Russians did little to bother the Portuguese in the second half although forward Vladimir Bystrov did strike a dangerous shot with an acrobatic bicycle kick.
Ronaldo almost gave his side the safety of a second goal five minutes from the end, but keeper Igor Akinfeev stretched to tip away his diagonal shot.
The nine group winners qualify for next year's World Cup finals in Brazil, while the eight best runners-up will play off over two legs for the remaining four places.