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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Santos defends Ronaldo decision after Portugal captain inspires win over Andorra: 'We won, that's all that matters'

Real Madrid superstar was left out of the starting line-up but entered the game as a half-time substitute following a furstrating first half.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos has defended his decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Andorra, despite the Real Madrid forward's integral role in the eventual victory.

Portugal, the reigning European champions, were frustrated by 144th-ranked Andorra for more than an hour until half-time substitute Ronaldo broke the deadlock. The Portugal captain also played a part in Andre Silva's goal to ensure a 2-0 win at the Estadi Nacional.

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"I thought hard, I pondered," Santos said when asked about the exclusion of Ronaldo from the starting line-up. "Ronaldo didn't train at 100 per cent in the two days before the game. There were lots of factors which led me to take this decision."

One potential factor was the risk of Ronaldo collecting another yellow card, which would have ruled him out of Tuesday's must-win clash against Switzerland.

The Swiss lead Portugal in Group B by three points but have a vastly inferior goal difference, meaning a win for Portugal between the two sides in Lisbon on Tuesday will see them claim the automatic place for Russia and Switzerland enter the playoffs.

"It wasn't really about the risk of getting a yellow card because he's an experienced player," Santos said. "But these games are complicated. I tried to administer the situation and do what was best.

Screenshot from Fifa.com of Group B table.
Screenshot from Fifa.com of Group B table.

"Was it the right thing? We won the game and that's what matters.

"We knew it was going to be difficult and the team had trouble adapting to the pitch. We didn't do what we are capable of in the first half.

"I had to bring on Ronaldo at half-time and in the end, we won the way we wanted to."