Portugal hopes intact after win over 10-man Azerbaijan

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BAKU, Oct 13 (Reuters) Portugal kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2008 finals after two first-half goals gave them a 2-0 victory over 10-man Azerbaijan in their Group A qualifier today.

Dominant Portugal started brightly and defender Bruno Alves opened the scoring after 12 minutes with a glancing header following a corner from Deco.

Azerbaijan were reduced to 10 men on 28 minutes when captain Aslan Karimov was sent-off for a foul on winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Portugal, who had drawn their last three qualifiers, doubled their lead on the stroke of halftime when striker Hugo Almeida, a late replacement for the injured Nuno Gomes, tapped in a cross from the right by Miguel.

Azerbaijan counter-attacked strongly in the second half and Branimir Subasic shot wide with only goalkeeper Ricardo to beat after 75 minutes.

Ronaldo failed to celebrate his 50th appearance for Portuguese side with a goal when he hit the Azerbaijan post after a fine run on 77 minutes Portugal trail leaders Poland, who face Kazakhstan later by a point with three qualifying matches to go in the eight-team group.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was serving the first of a three-match ban imposed by UEFA after what the governing body termed an ''assault'' on player Ivica Dragutinovic after Portugal's 1-1 draw at home to Serbia on September 12.

Reuters DKS VP0115

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