Cristiano Ronaldo reached 70 international goals as Portugal enjoyed a commanding 3-0 victory over Hungary on Saturday.
The captain netted with two superb strikes after Andre Silva had put the home side ahead in the World Cup qualifying clash at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.
These teams played out a thrilling draw when they last met in the group stage of Euro 2016, but Hungary offered scant resistance against a Portugal side who responded to some early jitters with an imperious display.
Silva swept home following a flowing team move – with Ronaldo at the heart of it – to put Fernando Santos’ side ahead, and his delightful touch set up the Real Madrid star to smash home a second before half-time.
Ronaldo made it 15 goals in 14 appearances for Portugal with a fine free-kick after the break to safeguard the points, as the European champions made it four wins in a row in Group B.
They are back to within three points of leaders Switzerland, who beat Albania 1-0 earlier on Saturday, while Hungary sit five points behind in third place with five matches left.
1 – C. Ronaldo is the only player to score with his right foot, left, head & from the penalty spot & from outside the box in #WC2018. Ace. pic.twitter.com/M1fnCLgcjw
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 25, 2017
Two early Ronaldo efforts from long range did little to trouble Peter Gulacsi in the Hungary goal, but the home side’s captain should have made it 1-0 in the 21st minute when he headed Ricardo Quaresma’s mishit effort wide from only six yards out.
Portugal were controlling possession without making many inroads, but, with 32 minutes gone, Santos’ side clicked at last.
A fine passing move involving William Carvalho and Ronaldo allowed Raphael Guerreiro to race into space to the left of the area, and his low cross was tapped into the net at the far post by Silva.
Four minutes later, they had their second. Pepe’s long ball was flicked exquisitely back into Ronaldo’s path by Silva, and the Real Madrid man smashed a low left-foot shot beyond Gulacsi from 20 yards out.
CR70@Cristiano has now scored goals for Portugal#WCQ pic.twitter.com/vZe4cEe3Ut
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) March 25, 2017
Hungary showed more endeavour after the break but tame crosses towards Rui Patricio were the sum total of their attacking efforts – a far cry from the ruthless counter-attacking they produced in the 3-3 stalemate between these sides at Euro 2016.
Portugal’s lead consequently looked under little threat, and Ronaldo made certain of the victory in emphatic style with 25 minutes to play, blasting a free-kick from a tight angle to the left of the penalty area across goal and into the bottom corner of the net.
Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak responded with his side’s first effort on target in the 67th minute, albeit one from nearly 40 yards out that barely caused Patricio to break sweat, but Bernd Storck’s side looked firmly resigned to their second defeat of the group.
Their chances of reaching Russia 2018 now look to be slipping away, while Portugal can prepare for Tuesday’s friendly with Sweden knowing that their own place in the finals is still firmly in their own hands.
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