Football: Portugal draw a blank against Ukraine on Ronaldo's return

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) fights for the ball with Ukraine's Sergii Kryvstov (left), goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and Oleksandr Karavaev (second from right) during the Uefa Euro 2020 qualification match between Portugal and Ukraine at Luz Stad
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) fights for the ball with Ukraine's Sergii Kryvstov (left), goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and Oleksandr Karavaev (second from right) during the Uefa Euro 2020 qualification match between Portugal and Ukraine at Luz Stadium in Lisbon, on March 22, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LISBON (REUTERS) - Defending champions Portugal were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Ukraine in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday (March 22) as Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the team for the first time since the World Cup.

Ukraine's veteran goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov kept Portugal at bay with several fine saves in the first hour before the hosts ran out of ideas in the Group B game.

Portugal had an early goal chalked off when William Carvalho's header was ruled offside and defender Pepe then produced an impressive volley which the 34-year-old Pyatov did well to turn over.

Ronaldo, left out of the Nations Cup matches in the autumn by mutual consent with coach Fernando Santos, then sprang into action as he twice got free on the left.

First he cut inside his marker and produced a snapshot which Pyatov saved with his legs and shortly afterwards he opted to go outside Serhiy Kryvtsov and fired in a low, left-foot shot which the goalkeeper again stopped.

The Ukraine captain saved his best for the 56th minute when he brilliantly turned away Andre Silva's goalbound shot with a one-handed save.

With Bernardo Silva repeatedly dribbling into dead-ends, Portugal began to lose composure as both Joao Cancelo and Ronaldo sent wayward crosses straight into touch.

 
 

Portugal then had a let off when Rui Patricio blocked Yevhen Konoplyanka's shot - Ukraine's only effort on target in the match - and debutant Junior Moraes saw his shot from the rebound blocked.

A late chance went begging for Portugal when substitute Rafa Silva missed his kick after a low Ronaldo cross found him in the area.