world soccer 7.9.2018 10:57 am

Ronaldo-less Portugal hold Croatia to draw

Croatia's defender Matej Mitrovic (L) vies with Portugal's midfielder Bruno Fernandes during a friendly football match between Portugal and Croatia at the Algarve stadium in Faro, on September 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG

Croatia's defender Matej Mitrovic (L) vies with Portugal's midfielder Bruno Fernandes during a friendly football match between Portugal and Croatia at the Algarve stadium in Faro, on September 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG

Stand-in captain Pepe delivered to level for Portugal in a 1-1 draw against World Cup finalists Croatia in their international friendly on Thursday.

European champions Portugal had to do without their usual captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, after his decision to pull out of the squad to concentrate on making an impact at new club Juventus, where he has yet to find the net.

Croatia, beaten 4-2 by France in the World Cup final in July, were given the perfect start after Ivan Perisic volleyed home in the 18th minute.

The Inter Milan winger, one of the stars of the World Cup in Russia, left Portugal ‘keeper Rui Patricio with no chance with a fiercely-struck volley.

It was Croatia’s first goal against Portugal in four meetings, but hopes of a win in Faro were soon tempered.

Pepe, wearing the captain’s armband, led the way by heading a 32nd minute equaliser on what was his 100th appearance for Portugal.

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