Cristiano Ronaldo hit a sublime hat-trick as European champions Portugal cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.
The Real Madrid forward netted his 12th, 13th and 14th goals of the campaign – in just his sixth appearance – with the first a stunning scissor-kick early on that set the tone.
Ronaldo could have been excused for showing signs of rustiness having not featured at club level since receiving a five-match ban for a push on an official in the first leg of Madrid’s Supercopa de Espana victory over Barcelona, but he was at his scintillating best in Porto to punish the Faroe Islands.
He followed up his spectacular opener with a second from the penalty spot and, although Rogvi Baldvinsson hit back for the visitors before the break, Ronaldo then created a goal for William Carvalho before completing his hat-trick with a strike that reached two major milestones.
Ronaldo’s 14th of the current group stage matches the record held by Predrag Mijatovic’s from qualifying for the 1998 tournament, while a 78th international goal betters the tally of Brazil great Pele.
Nelson Oliveira added the fifth late on and Portugal have now won six consecutive Group B games since losing their opening fixture to pool leaders Switzerland, who they still trail by three points ahead of a trip to Hungary on Sunday.
HAT-TRICK @Cristiano Ronaldo! Goal 14 of the campaign – equalling Predrag Mijatović’s record from 1998 @FIFAWorldCup qualifying! pic.twitter.com/2zmAVNzh7T
— European Qualifiers (@EuroQualifiers) August 31, 2017
It took just three minutes for Ronaldo to make his mark, meeting Bernardo Silva’s deep cross with a stunning acrobatic effort that flew past a helpless Gunnar Nielsen.
Portugal were initially slow to build on the fine start, however, with Joan Simun Edmundsson shooting tamely from a good position for the Faroe Islands while both Andre Silva and Ronaldo nodded off target for the hosts.
But Portugal’s toil was eased in the 29th minute. Joao Mario was tripped in the area by Roaldur Jacobsen and Ronaldo coolly converted the resulting spot-kick.
Only a smart Nielsen stop denied Ronaldo a first-half hat-trick – a feat Andre Silva had managed in Torshavn last October – with the rebound escaping the AC Milan man.
However, the home side were caught off guard seven minutes before the break when Baldvinsson thumped a fine volley past Rui Patricio after Jonas Tor Naes’ long throw-in was flicked into his path.
Nielsen was called into action again to parry Joao Moutinho’s curler and then blocked well from Bernardo Silva shortly after the restart.
Portugal kept pushing to restore their two-goal advantage and a cute Ronaldo pass to Andre Silva in front of goal should have been rewarded with a finish, but the 21-year-old forward flicked narrowly wide.
But Carvalho was ruthless with the next opening Ronaldo created, directing a header inside the right-hand post from the Portugal captain’s pinpoint cross.
And Carvalho then turned provider. He teased a pass into Ronaldo and then stood aside as the 32-year-old sold Nielsen a dummy and calmly stroked into the net.
Nielsen saved well from Eliseu’s speculative blast, but Oliveira added the fifth with a late rebound as Fernando Santos’ men draw ever nearer to a potentially decisive final fixture at home to Switzerland.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!