Portugal's Pepe celebrates after scoring against Turkey on Saturday. ((Armando Franca/Associated Press))

Cristiano Ronaldo was far from his best, but lucky for Portugal, defender Pepe picked up the slack.

The Brazil-born defender scored in the 61st minute to help Portugal earn a 2-0 victory Saturday over Turkey in Geneva in their opening game at Euro 2008.

Raul Meireles scored Portugal's second goal in injury time.

"I can hardly describe the emotion I'm feeling," Pepe said. "We played as a real team and that's important. We knew sooner or later we would score a goal. Today, I must stress that it was the team spirit that prevailed. We deserve to be congratulated for our great display."

Portugal is tied for first place in Group A with the Czech Republic, which defeated tournament co-host Switzerland 1-0 in Basel earlier on Saturday.

Ronaldo is generally regarded as the best player in the world after scoring 42 goals for Manchester United this season, but the criticism of the 23-year-old winger has always been that he has under-performed for the Portuguese national team.

Portugal fans also wonder whether he's completely focused on this tournament — speculation about his future has hit an all-time high the past few weeks with the news that Spanish club Real Madrid is willing to pay a world-record transfer fee to Manchester United for the services of the Portuguese winger.

Those concerns will only grow louder after his performance on Saturday, as except for carving out one scoring chance in the opening half, Ronaldo was largely ineffective against the Turks.

"I don't think this victory makes us a favourite," Ronaldo said. "We have to think one game at a time. But it was important to play well and keep us motivated for the rest of the competition."

An up-tempo first half saw the Portuguese dominate possession and dictate the pace of the game by using their speed to run at the Turkish defenders.

The best scoring chance of the half fell to Ronaldo in the 38th minute. Kept in check by the Turks until that point, the Manchester United star fired a dangerous, swerving free kick from 25 yards out that had goal written all over it, but Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel made a great save to push the ball off the far post and out of danger.

Portugal forward Nuno Gomes nearly opened the scoring after the halftime break when he took advantage of a breakdown in the Turkish defence and toe-poked the ball past a helpless Demirel and off the post.

That seemed to awaken the Turks, who began to pressure their opponents, but it was Portugal who broke the deadlock with 29 minutes left in regulation. Pepe drove through the middle of the Turkish defence, played a short pass to Gomes, who then fed the ball back to Pepe and the Real Madrid defender deftly chipped it over the onrushing Demirel.

Gomes came within inches of making it 2-0 for Portugal minutes later when his header smacked the crossbar.

Meireles scored off a rebound in injury time following a Portuguese counter-attack that caught the Turks flat-footed.

"It's not easy to play with Portugal," Turkey coach Fatih Terim said. "They have world-known players and they're one of the favourites of the tournament. Despite that we tried to defend and set up attacks."

Portugal takes on the Czech Republic in Geneva on Wednesday. Turkey meets Switzerland in Basel on the same day.


Portugal: Pepe — The Real Madrid scored the game-winner and was solid in defence.

Turkey: Volkan Demirel — The Turkish goalkeeper made a number of big saves.

With files from Associated Press