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Football: Ronaldo omitted from starting XI for tactical reasons, says Portugal coach Santos

Cristiano Ronaldo came on in the 62nd minute in the Nations League opener against Spain but failed to find the net. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Portugal coach Fernando Santos has defended his decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting line-up for their Nations League opener against Spain on Thursday (June 2), saying he was confident that the forward could make a greater impact off the bench.

Ronaldo, his country's record goal-scorer, came on in the 62nd minute but failed to find the net as a late Ricardo Horta strike salvaged a 1-1 draw for Portugal.

"Cristiano Ronaldo? They often ask why he is a starter. It's the million-dollar question," said Santos after the game. "I understood that for this game it was better to use the players I used."

Santos said Ronaldo's exclusion was not a reflection of his quality, after the 37-year-old enjoyed a strong season for Manchester United, scoring 24 times in all competitions.

"It was a technical and tactical option for this game. It seemed to us the best solution. For the way we wanted to play and approach the game. It has nothing to do with Cristiano's quality, that's not even in question," he said.

"There are moments in the game when you have to think in a different way. We believed that in the second half he could come in and solve the game."

Alvaro Morata had given Spain the lead in Seville but the hosts failed to take their chances in the second half, with Jordi Alba spurning an opportunity in the dying minutes to snatch a win.

Portugal next play Switzerland on Sunday while Spain travel to Prague to face the Czech Republic.