Scotland’s hopes of progression to the quarterfinals of Euro 2017 now hang in the balance after a damaging 2-1 defeat to Portugal in Rotterdam.
In a game Anna Signeul’s side were potentially going into as favorites, it’s a hammer blow to the Swedish coach and her side, who now might have just one game left in charge of Scotland.
Goals from Carolina Mendes and Ana Leita either side of Erin Cuthbert’s strike were enough for Francisco Neto’s side to net a three points that still gives them an outside chance of qualification.
Scotland did start the game the better side, constantly threatening down the left through Fiona Brown, while Lana Clelland — in for the injured Jane Ross — used her pace and movement to get in behind the Portugal defense.
But it will be Clelland more than anyone who will wonder what might have been, giving up a huge chance after just 15 minutes. When Caroline Weir’s effort was pushed away by Portugal goalkeeper Patrícia Morais, Clelland had an empty net in front of her, only to fail to get any sort of contact on the ball.
Ten minutes later, Clelland once again found herself free at the back post but once again couldn’t bring the ball under control.
This chance was less clear-cut, but all the more crucial. Less than three minutes later, a sloppy pass from Rachel McLauchlan allowed Diana Silva to break down the left, and her cross was completely misjudged by Vaila Barsley, allowing Carolina Mendes to slam home the opener.
It was a huge blow for Scotland and it showed in their confidence; no longer were they threatening in behind as Portugal became happy to sit back and soak up the pressure their opponents tried to push on them.
Scotland’s fortunes changed with the introduction of the lively 19-year-old Erin Cuthbert shortly after the break, the teenager was buzzing around Portugal’s defense, making a nuisance of herself right from her first kick.
So it was no surprise when she got Scotland back into the game. A neat one-two with Weir gave her the opportunity to slot home the equalizer in cool fashion. It was Scotland’s first goal at any major tournament since Craig Burley at the 1998 World Cup — Cuthbert was born just a month later.
But Scotland failed to capitalize on their momentum and were behind just minutes later. Leite, only having come on but a minute earlier, raced through to score her first goal for Portugal beyond the helpless Gemma Fay.
Signeul’s side just couldn’t create the chances they needed, added to it Portugal’s time-wasting, and it turned into a frustrating and disappointing night for the Scots.
One final chance did come, and it was a big one. Cuthbert was once again at the heart of it, setting up the usually deadly Weir inside the area, but the Liverpool attacker could only slam her effort off the crossbar.
Jubilant scenes from the Portuguese arrived at full-time. For Scotland, they need a win against Spain and hope their next-door neighbors keep up their early good form.
Referee: Katalin Kulcsar (Hungary)
Fay; McLauchlan (Love 82), Dieke, Barsley, Smith; Corsie; Evans, Crichton, Weir, Fi. Brown (Lauder 67); Clelland (Cuthbert 54)
Unused subs: Lynn, Alexander, J. Murray, L. Ross, J. Ross, Howard, C. Murray, Fr. Brown, Arthur
Morais; Borges, Rebelo, C. Costa, Do. Silva; T. Pinto, Da Costa (Pires 76), Marques, Neto; C. Mendes (Leite 70), Di. Silva (Luis 90)
Unused subs: Marreiros, R. Costa, M. Mendes, Infante, Fidalgo, Norton, F. Pinto, Gomes, Antunes