Scotland’s attempts to bounce back from UEFA Nations League defeat ended in a 3-1 friendly loss to Euro 2016 winners Portugal at Hampden.
Alex McLeish made six changes for the fixture from the team which lost 2-1 to Israel and switched to four at the back, but Dark Blues fans will be worried by the lack of threat their team posed, especially in the second half.
Portugal beat Poland 3-2 in Chorzow three days ago and, despite fielding a second string side, showed their quality to dominate the game and cruise to victory.
The first big moment in the match came on 14 minutes. Sergio Oliveira, who’d just failed to get a head to a Neto through ball up the other end, nodded a James Forrest free-kick from the right at his own keeper. Beto made a good stop to tip the ball over for a corner.
On 21 minutes, Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna nodded a ball from a deep free-kick into Beto’s hands, before Steven Naismith failed to get over the ball when attempting to head a Callum McGregor cross from the left at the target.
Four minutes later, the Portuguese showed their predatory instincts when Cedric flashed a ball through the Scots defence to Bruma. The attacker just failed in his attempts to get a touch as the ball found Craig Gordon’s gloves.
However, they should have scored soon after. Bruma smashing wide, off McKenna, after Jack Hendry failed to deal with a clipped ball in from Oliveira.
Scotland had as much possession as their European title-holding rivals though and looked capable of finding some joy down the left through roving full-back Andy Robertson and McGregor.
On 37 minutes, John McGinn, standing at halfway, pinged one to James Forrest on the other side and Naismith’s cross-goal header from the Celtic man’s cross was just wide of the back post.
Three minutes later, Gordon palmed a shot from Eder away well. The target man, who scored the goal to win the Euros in 2016, had worked himself a yard of space to get away from Scott McKenna and turn.
The danger signs were there and, but for Bruma’s errant shot early on, the Portuguese could have already been ahead.
They were ahead two minutes before half-time, Bruma slipping the ball down the left to Kevin Rodrigues. His low cross beat Gordon at the front post and Helder Costa slid in to poke it home.
After the break, Scotland started to get a lot of balls into the Portugal box and the best chance of this high-pressure spell fell to Aberdeen’s McKenna. He dived to head a McGinn corner from the left, guiding the eight-yard effort just past the near post.
The game then died down a bit as Portugal seemed content to play keep ball.
On 66 minutes, Dons captain Graeme Shinnie entered the fray for McGinn, winning his fourth international cap.
Soon after, McKenna made a solid last ditch sliding tackle in the box to block Costa as he charged at Gordon’s goal with the ball from the right wing.
Another Red, Gary Mackay-Steven was soon getting ready to come on for his first cap since 2013.
However, as the Scots readied to make the change, Portugal scored to make it 2-0.
Jack Hendry and Stephen O’Donnell lost their men as three Portuguese moved together to latch on to a Renato Sanches free-kick. Eder was at the front of the queue and proceeded to bullet the ball into the top right corner past Gordon.
With seven minutes left, it was three. Sub Gedson Fernandes playing a long pass to Bruma, who with just Shinnie to beat, turned the Dons man inside and out before firing into the far top corner past Gordon.
There was a late consolation for Scotland as Mackay-Steven backheeled the ball through to Naismith to fire into sub keeper Claudio Ramos’ far corner.
The full-time whistle went straight after this and ended a poor evening for Scotland, although it was an improvement on Thursday night against Israel.
McLeish’s men had spells of control in the game, without troubling the Portugal goal too often. However, mistakes just as you think they might be building towards finding a goal continue to dog them.
The Dark Blues will need to find another gear for the final Nations League pool games against Albania and Israel if they’re to hang on to their second chance at qualification for Euro 2020.
Scotland: Craig Gordon, Stephen O’Donnell, Andy Robertson, Jack Hendry, Scott McKenna, John McGinn, James Forrest, Stuart Armstrong, Oliver McBurnie, Steven Naismith, Callum McGregor.
Subs: Graeme Shinnie (for McGinn 66), Gary Mackay-Steven, Kevin McDonald (for McBurnie, Armstrong 66, 67).
Subs not used: Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin, Johnny Russell, Michael Devlin, Ryan Christie.
Portugal: Beto, Luis Neto, Kevin Rodrigues, Ruben Dias, Bruma, Eder, Helder Costa, Danilo, Sergio Oliveira, Bruno Fernandes, Cedric.
Subs: Joao Cancelo, Renato Sanches (for Dias, Oliveira 55), Gedson Fernandes (for Bruno Fernandes 68), Claudio Ramos (for Beto 86), William Carvalho, Rafa Silva (for Danilo, Bruma 91).
Subs not used: Pedro Mendes, Andre Silva, William Carvalho, Rafa Silva, Ruben Neves, Mario Rui, Pizzi.
Referee: Ruddy Buquet.