Cristiano Ronaldo netted a brilliant hat-trick to ensure Portugal secured a late draw with Spain in Group B of the World Cup in Sochi on Friday evening.
The Real Madrid superstar got his tournament off to the best possible start as he netted a penalty in only the fourth minute after being tripped by Nacho Fernandez in the box. Diego Costa equalised for the Spaniards, before an uncharacteristic mistake from David De Gea gifted Ronaldo a second just before half-time. Costa again dragged Fernando Hierro’s men level with a close-range finish after half-time with Nacho atoning for his error only minutes later to claim the lead.
The headlines were destined to be written by Ronaldo, though. He thundered home a stunning free-kick with only minutes left on the clock to claim a valuable point for the reigning European champions.
Ronaldo powers penalty home
Portugal started brightly in Sochi and were in control within only four minutes, and of course it was Ronaldo at the centre of things. Taking on Real Madrid teammate, Nacho Fernandez, the Portuguese superstar was tripped in the penalty area, with the referee pointing to the spot immediately. As could be expected, the 33-year-old was the coolest man in the stadium as he powered his kick beyond David De Gea to claim the lead for Portugal.
David Silva had an excellent chance to equalise on the volley but blazed his effort high over the bar. The Manchester City man then went even closer as he latched onto Andres Iniesta’s ball but his shot was deflected away.
Portugal continued to look threatening but Gonçalo Guedes wasted an excellent opportunity from Ronaldo’s square ball, producing a tame shot.
Costa too strong for the Portuguese defence
Despite the early Portuguese dominance, Diego Costa equalised for the 2010 World Champions mid-way through the first-half. Taking down a long ball deep into Portugal territory, he outmuscled Jose Fonte and Pepe to charge into the penalty area. The Atleti forward then wriggled free of his markers and rammed the ball home into the bottom corner.
Isco then was so close to taking the lead with a fantastic free-kick that hit the crossbar and bounced down onto the goal-line. The technology did not award a goal, however.
The midfielder then played a key role in the next opportunity as he fed Iniesta, only for the latter to drag the ball wide.
De Gea clanger gift-wraps Ronaldo a second but Spain hit back
Just as the first-period was drawing to a close, Ronaldo somehow got his name on the scoresheet again. Taking a shot from outside of the area, it looked a comfortable one for De Gea to deal with. The ball slipped from his grasp and trundled into the back of the net.
Just like with the first-strike however, Costa was on hand to equalise in the second-half. From a free-kick, Sergio Busquets was waiting at the back post to nod down to the striker. It was an easy task from then on as Costa tapped into the empty net.
In a flash, Spain went ahead for the first time in the game through Nacho. Meeting a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, the defender hit a sweet, low strike towards goal that kissed the post to nestle into the net.
Late free kick shocks Spain
Chances and came went in the closing stages as both sides battled to secure a valuable three points. First, Costa put wide from Jordi Alba’s cross before substitute, Ricardo Quaresma, shot way over.
Ronaldo did still have time to nick a point for Portugal as he was fouled by Pique outside of the area. In typical fashion, the ex-Manchester United man stood over the ball, and following a long pause, thundered it over the wall to send the stadium into pandemonium on the full-time whistle.
Well, what can you say about that man, Ronaldo? At the age of 33, he has just produced a stunning individual performance and become the oldest man ever to score a World Cup hat-trick.
On the balance of things, a draw for both sides was probably deserved. The Spanish dominated large swaths of the game but Portugal were simply the most threatening and they always have a chance with Ronaldo in their side.
They both now turn their attentions to their next group game in Russia. Portugal play Morocco in Moscow on Wednesday, whilst Spain clash with Iran later in the day.
Portugal: Patrício (6); Soares (6), Pepe (7), Fonte (6), Guerreiro (7); Carvalho (6), Moutinho (6), Fernandes (5) (Mario (6), 68′); B. Silva (5) (Quaresma (6), 69′), Guedes (7) (A. Silva (N/A), 80′), Ronaldo (9).
Spain: De Gea (5); Nacho (7), Piqué (6), Ramos (7), Alba (6); Koke (6), Isco (7), Busquets (8), D. Silva (7) (Vazquez (N/A), 86′), Iniesta (7) (Thiago (6), 70′); Costa (8) (Aspas (N/A), 77′).
Goals: Ronaldo PEN (4′, 44′, 88′), Costa (24′, 55′), Nacho (58′)
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
Yellow Cards: Busquets (17′), Fernandes (28′)
Red Cards: N/A
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