BRAGA, Portugal: Portugal was held to 0-0 at home by 10-man Albania on Wednesday, knocking its World Cup qualifying campaign further off course.
The Portuguese haven’t won since their opening Group 1 match and have taken just five points from four games.
Albania’s defense held out for 50 minutes after Admir Teli was shown his second yellow card when his forearm hit Cristiano Ronaldo in the face as they were tussling for the ball. But Portugal once again couldn’t make its dominance tell on the scoresheet, and home fans jeered while the Albanians celebrated the point as if it were a win.
Portugal featured three changes from the starting lineup that drew 0-0 in Sweden last weekend but it still hasn’t found its form under new coach Carlos Queiroz, who took over in July.
“The players, like me, feel frustrated and disappointed. We never imagined we’d draw at home with Albania,” Queiroz said. “The game was mostly one-way traffic. We did everything we could to win, but sometimes football can be agony.”
The Portuguese took command, taking 26 shots at goal compared with four from Albania, but as the visitors held on the local fans returned to the jeering they produced during last month’s 3-2 home loss to Denmark.
The closest Portugal came to breaking the deadlock during the first half was a 35th-minute free kick from Ronaldo, which the goalkeeper couldn’t hold but the defense bundled away.
Albania’s sharp defending consistently choked Portugal’s forward moves, and numerous mishit passes by the Portuguese worsened the crowd’s mood.
Portugal piled on the pressure after the break. Queiroz cranked up the attack with a double substitution in the 54th, bringing on Nani and Ricardo Quaresma, but they made little impression.
Ronaldo, playing his second match for Portugal since undergoing ankle injury after the European Championship in June, failed to shine.
Portugal adopted a five-man forward line in the final 15 minutes as striker Nuno Gomes replaced a defender.
Gomes set up Nani for a close-range shot that Arjan Beqaj blocked with his legs, and Almeida’s header bounced off the post and into the goalkeeper’s arms. But it was late substitute Besart Berisha who almost ended the stalemate on the break.
Portugal: Quim; Miguel (Nuno Gomes, 74), Pepe, Bruno Alves, Paulo Ferreira; Manuel Fernandes, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho (Nani, 54), Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Almeida, Danny (Ricardo Quaresma, 54).
Albania: Arjan Beqaj, Elvin Beqiri, Kristi Vangjeli, Debatik Curri, Klodian Duro (Besart Berisha, 76), Ervin Skela, Ansi Agolli, Lorik Cana, Altin Lala, Erjon Bogdani (Endri Vrapi, 45), Ervin Bulku.