Cristiano Ronaldo has received praise from all angles after he scored his first-ever hat-trick at international level for Portugal.
The Real Madrid attacker scored three times in the second half as Portugal overcame Northern Ireland 4-2 in World Cup qualifying on Friday, after the visitors had trailed 2-1 at Windsor Park in Belfast.
Both sides were reduced to 10 men early in the second-half before Ronaldo’s three goals in 15 minutes overhauled Northern Ireland, who had another player sent off with ten minutes to play.
“It is a sign of a world-class player, one of the greatest we’ll see at this ground, that he punished us so severely,” Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill said.
“I don’t think he did much for an hour and the lads deserved better.”
Portugal’s head coach Paulo Bento was full of superlatives for his star player and compared Ronaldo with a legend of Portuguese football.
“Ronaldo belongs in the same company as Eusebio and is one of the greatest players in our history,” Bento said.
Bento added that securing the three points was the most important factor from the match in Belfast; not the performance.
“In the end, our victory was completely fair as we managed the game better in the second half than the first,” Bento said.
“It is normal not always (to be) able to win in the best way but it’s the competitive spirit, the character of the players, combined with the quality that allows us to turn results like today and continue our path to Brazil in 2014.”
Portugal are now two points clear on the top of UEFA’s Group F having played one more match than second-placed Russia, while Northern Ireland are in fourth position with their World Cup dream fast fading.
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