FOXBOROUGH, United States – Portugal badly missed the firepower of captain Cristiano Ronaldo as they labored to an entertaining 1-0 win over fellow World Cup qualifiers Mexico in their US friendly.
Portugal are sweating on the fitness of talisman Ronaldo with the Brazil showpiece six days away. Having settled for a scoreless draw with Greece last weekend they were toothless once more. The game looked all set to end goalless until stand-in skipper Bruno Alves popped up in injury time with a thumping header to seal a victory Portugal barely deserved.
Manchester United winger Nani had been anonymous, while gangly forward Eder failed to convince, leaving Portugal coach Paulo Bento with plenty to ponder ahead of Tuesday's final warm-up match with the Republic of Ireland. Mexico, playing their last friendly before heading to Brazil, have their problems too.
They dropped striker Javier Hernandez after he failed to fire in a 1-0 defeat to Bosnia on Tuesday, but neither Giovani Dos Santos nor Oribe Peralta did enough to suggest they can trouble the hosts Brazil on June 17. Mexico enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges to both halves and had the ball in the net after just two minutes, but Hector Moreno was ruled offside after prodding the ball in.
Portugal responded when Vieirinha had their first shot on target in the 14th minute, Mexico keeper Jesus Corona turning the ball round his near post. As well as Ronaldo, the Portuguese -- who face Germany in their June 16 World Cup opener -- were also missing through injury key defender Pepe and experienced midfielder Raul Meireles.
Yet they began to dominate in front of the 56,000 crowd at the impressive Foxborough home of the NFL's New England Patriots, Eder drawing another save from Corona with a first-time snapshot. The chances began stacking up in the second half: Corona was quickly down to his near post to deny Fabio Coentrao, while Andres Guardado flashed the ball just wide for the Mexicans as they finished the stronger.
Hector Herrera might have grabbed a winner for Mexico but Eduardo dived to his right and then saved from substitute Alan Pulido with two minutes left to keep the fast-fading Portuguese in the game, before Alves made his late intervention. Real Madrid ace Ronaldo has left-leg thigh and knee issues and has now missed his country's last two matches, leading to speculation that he might not be fit to face the Germans.
Portugal also play the USA and Ghana in Brazil, while Mexico have the hosts, Cameroon and Croatia.