- WORLD CUP 2002

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Wednesday, August 15, 2001
Figo hat-trick secures victory for Portugal

FARO, Portugal, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A hat-trick from Luis Figo drove Portugal to a 3-0 victory over a combative Moldovan side in a friendly international on Wednesday.

Portuguese manager Toni Oliveira said the game was satisfactory preparation for their World Cup group two qualifiers against Cyprus and Andorra in September.

'The Moldovan team gave us quite a few problems, but we closed up spaces and prevailed,' he said. 'You can tell, and it was to be expected, that not all of our players are fully fit yet. But the next two games are to be won.'

'We are 270 minutes away from qualifying, and that includes the final game with Estonia on October 10,' Oliveira added.

Moldova surprised Portugal with several fast counter-attacks and created the first real scoring chance of the game after six minutes when midfielder Serghei Covalciuc shot just wide of the right post from the edge of the penalty area.

'Portugal played openly and made use of their great international experience, but judging by the spectators' reactions, we played well,' said Alexandr Spiridow, after his first game as Moldovan trainer.

Portugal then began to dominate play with their passing game. Striker Joao Pinto came close to scoring in the 18-th minute, but hit the ball just wide of the right post after receiving a long cross from team mate Nuno Gomes.

Moldova's defending became increasingly nervous at the end of the first half, and conceded a penalty, when striker Serghei Clescenco pulled Portuguese forward Nuno Gomes' shirt.

Figo converted the 43rd-minute spotkick tucking the ball just inside the right post to send goalkeeper Denis Romanenco the wrong way.

Greek referee Georgios Borovilos denied Moldova a chance to draw level in the final minutes of the first half when Clescenco was brought down in the Portuguese penalty area by defender Jorge Costa.

Figo bagged Portugal's second goal in the 61st minute, again from the spot, after Moldova midfielder Igor Oprea tugged Armando Petit's shirt.

Rui Costa beat three defenders to force another good save from Moldovan goalkeeper Romanenco, who dived to deflect a shot past his right post from the Portuguese midfielder.

Figo scored his third goal in the 89th minute when he advanced into the penalty area collected a back-pass from Nuno Gomes and blasted the ball into an open goal.


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