Portugal 2 Mexico 1: Scolari rides luck to earn perfect 10 as Mexico sweat after penalty miss

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Ricardo La Volpe, the Mexico coach, saw his 10-man side stutter and stumble their way into the last 16 in Gelsenkirchen yesterday.

The nerves of the coach and his team appeared to be stretched to breaking point under the closed roof of the Arena AufSchalke. Two goals down thanks to an early Maniche strike and a penalty from Simao Sabrosa, they fought back with a goal from Francisco Fonseca but Omar Bravo then missed a penalty and Luis Perez was sent off.

La Volpe was satisfied with Mexico's all-round performance, though. "We played well," he said. "I think we are playing the ball around better than our rivals. Today we didn't score enough. For the coach that is the most difficult thing to resolve."

His captain, Barcelona's Rafael Marquez agreed. "We had so many chances we could not put away," he said. "We are missing a bit of luck because we continue to make lots of chances. The penalty miss? Let's not talk about that. We have to try to work on scoring goals."

It may not have helped matters that the normally vociferous Mexican supporters were remarkably quiet, given that their Group D rivals Angola were running Iran close.

Portugal rested Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco and Pauleta but still started full of invention. Fonseca almost made the breakthrough for Mexico after two minutes but his shot went straight at goalkeeper Ricardo.

Portugal took the lead in the sixth minute with a marvellous goal from Maniche. The former Chelsea midfielder raced into the box to get on the end of a Simao cross and finish emphatically. Two minutes later Bravo almost equalised, his chip from close range going narrowly wide of the post.

Then Luis Figo was allowed room to manoeuvre in the area but he only succeeded in sending a chip into the arms of the Mexico goalkeeper, Oswaldo Sanchez.

Portugal extended their lead in the 24th minute when Simao confidently converted a penalty awarded after a needless handball by Marquez, who ended the last World Cup in disgrace after being sent off for a head-butt in the second-round defeat by the United States and tried to punch away a corner here.

Portugal were playing some wonderful flowing football at this stage and Helder Postiga saw his effort beaten away by Sanchez. Tiago latched on to the rebound but his effort was off target.

However, Mexico pulled a goal back in the 29th minute when Fonseca scored with a header from a corner which Portugal defended poorly.

The Cruz Azul striker was causing Portugal lots problems and saw a header 10 minutes later go narrowly wide.

Mexico almost equalised a minute before half-time but Ricardo made a good block from Pavel Pardo, who rattled in a free-kick which was marginally wide from distance at the start of the second half.

They wasted a great chance to equalise in the 58th minute when Miguel handled in the area. Bravo opted for power with the penalty and sent his spot-kick high over the bar.

The Mexicans were becoming frustrated and Perez was sent off in the 61st minute after amassing two yellow cards, the second for an adjudged dive in the area. Bravo was again wasteful two minutes later when he got into a good position but failed to trouble Ricardo.

Portugal had lost some of their sting but Tiago raced forward in the 67th minute, only to drag his shot wide. Then substitute Nuno Gomes fired over the top after a cross from Simao.

Portugal now go forward with confidence after three straight wins while Mexico live to fight another day.

Portugal's victory also earned Luiz Felipe Scolari a World Cup record of 10 successive victories as a coach - and a run of 17 internationals unbeaten, during which they have conceded only six goals.

Scolari also led Brazil to seven consecutive wins when they lifted the World Cup in South Korea and Japan four years ago.

"Ten wins in the World Cup is the kind of thing that would mark anybody's life, especially mine," Scolari said, adding that he liked his side's attitude in yesterday's game.

"It wasn't a game where everything was at its best but the way the team carried itself from beginning to end, I think it was good," he said.

"Things couldn't be better," he added. "This was as tough a game as we had expected, but I asked my players today to make it hard for me to pick my team for the next round, and they did that."

Portugal (4-3-2-1): Ricardo (Sporting Lisbon); Miguel (Valencia), Carvalho (Chelsea), Meira (Stuttgart), Caneira (Sporting Lisbon); Petit (Benfica), Maniche (Dynamo Moscow), Tiago (Lyon); Figo (Internazionale), Simao (Benfica); Postiga (St-Etienne). Substitutes used: Ferreira (Chelsea) for Miguel, 61; Gomes (Benfica) for Postiga, 69; Boa Morte (Fulham) for Figo, 80.

Mexico (3-5-2): Sanchez (Guadalajara); Osorio (Cruz Azul), Marquez (Barcelona), Salcido (Guadalajara); Pineda (Guadalajara), Rodriguez (Guadalajara), Pardo (America), Perez (Monterrey), Mendez (Monterrey); Fonseca (Cruz Azul), Bravo (Guadalajara). Substitutes used: Zinha (Toluca) for Rodriguez, h-t; Castro (America) for Pineda, 69; Franco (Villarreal) for Mendez, 80.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

Booked: Portugal Miguel, Maniche, Boa Morte, Gomes; Mexico Rodriguez, Perez, Marquez, Zinha.

Sent off: Mexico Perez (61).

Man of the match: Simao.

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