In a part of the world where Englishmen usually come packing a set of clubs England last night produced another par performance, albeit a solid one of the Nick Faldo variety rather than the quixotic identified with Seve Ballesteros.
Sven Goran Eriksson will be happy enough with that though. With his team severely understaffed, Eriksson was content to avoid embarrassment by potential Euro 2004 quarter-final opponents.
It was a bonus that a few lessons were learned. For one, England can ill afford to do without Paul Scholes who, as England laboured in the first period, was the only player whose passing matched the Portuguese. Eriksson will also have noted the performance of Ledley King who played with a maturity which belied his inexperience and suggested he is capable of gatecrashing the European Championships.
King's presence even prompted the 46th-minute own goal by Miguel which gave England a lead cancelled out 24 minutes later by Pauleta's free-kick.
It was not just Eriksson who was rehearsing his lines for the summer. This was the first major match to be held in the Estadio Algarve, a funky construction with hints of Huddersfield's McAlpine, so police and administrators were nervous. They need not have been. England's traditional travelling support were bolstered by expats and tourists but the combination of the festival atmosphere, and the threat of a banning order, meant there was little sense of menace.
The locals were thus able to celebrate a rare visit from the seleccao and commemorate Luis Figo's 100th appearance for Portugal. The last time the Real Madrid winger played on the Algarve, in 2001, he scored a hat-trick. Glancing at the team-sheets Figo must have pondered his chances of adding another. England's back four featured one first choice, Ashley Cole and two men, Phil Neville and King, currently plying their trade as midfielders.
Elsewhere on the pitch, England bore a more familiar countenance and so could be confident of avoiding the fate of Portugal's last opponents, Kuwait, who were beaten 8-0 in November. Nevertheless they looked for a solid opening so King, making his first start, could settle.
It was unfortunate then, that after four minutes Cole should head a cross straight to Figo's feet. As all Portugal prepared to exult, David James saved well to his right. If King was perturbed he did not show it as he shepherded a threatening pass by Figo away from Pauleta then cleared a dangerous cross from Paulo Ferreira.
Portugal, passing sweetly and moving cleverly, continued to stretch the makeshift England defence but with the midfield helping out they weathered the early push and began to apply pressure of their own. Their momentum was disrupted, however, when Cole, worryingly for Arsenal, limped off after 17 minutes.
Cole looked to have landed awkwardly after a foul and the tackles continued to be delivered with an intensity which belied the match's billing as a friendly. Portugal were clearly in the mood and might have gone ahead when Rui Costa's sublime pass released Simao to run at Gareth Southgate after 22 minutes. The Middlesbrough captain is in commanding form in the Premiership but this was a different challenge and he looked discomfited before bringing down the Benfica flyer.
Owen, who should have felt at home as he owns a property in an upmarket golfing resort barely a three-iron away, then had two half-chances, first from Wayne Bridge's low cross, then after a neat move with Scholes. On neither occasion could he make clean contact, a trend which continued when he shanked a later chance provided by David Beckham.
These glimpses at goal were all England could conjure for their passing was both less inventive and less accurate than that of the Portuguese. England's qualities were more prosaic but hard work and defensive support play are not to be sniffed at they ensured England reached the interval without being breached.
England reappeared with Danny Mills at right-back, Kieron Dyer and Joe Cole on the flanks and, most interestingly, Beckham in the centre. This experiment was quickly given the boost of a fortuitous goal when Miguel, under pressure from King, turned a testing Beckham free-kick into his own net.
Portugal almost levelled immediately, Rooney having to head Jorge Andrade's header off then line then, after James unaccountably spilled an easy catch, Southgate hooking clear.
Dead-ball situations are a different matter and Portugal levelled when, Luis Boa Morte having escaped with a handball, Butt conceded a foul. From 25 yards Pauleta bent the ball inside James's near post. Joe Cole, after good work by Alan Smith and Dyer, should have restored England's lead but was denied by Ricardo. But by then Figo had left taking with him the game's last significance.
PORTUGAL (4-2-3-1): Ricardo (Sporting Lisbon); Ferreira (Porto), Couto (Lazio), Andrade (Deportivo La Coruna), Jorge (Sporting Lisbon); Costinha (Porto), Petit (Benfica); Figo (Real Madrid), Rui Costa (Milan), Simao (Benfica); Pauleta (Paris SG). Substitutes: Carvalho (Porto) for Andrade, 74; Almeida (U Leiria) for Pauleta, 78.
ENGLAND (4-4-2): James (Manchester City); P Neville (Manchester Utd), King (Tottenham), Southgate (Middlesbrough), A Cole (Arsenal); Beckham (Real Madrid), Butt (Manchester Utd), Scholes (Manchester Utd), Lampard (Chelsea); Owen (Liverpool), Rooney (Everton). Substitutes: Bridge (Chelsea) for A Cole, 17; Mills (Middlesbrough/Leeds Utd) for P Neville, h-t; J Cole (Chelsea) for Lampard, h-t; Dyer (Newcastle Utd) for Scholes, h-t; Carragher (Liverpool) for Butt, 86; Jenas (Newcastle Utd) for Beckham, 86.
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary).Reuse content