Portugal 3-3 Spain: Cristiano Ronaldo scores sensational free kick to complete hat-trick and earn Group B draw after Nacho stunner looked to have won sensational World Cup clash
- Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal the lead from a third-minute penalty, sending David de Gea the wrong way
- Diego Costa brilliantly equalised after out-muscling defence and firing marvelously into the bottom corner
- Ronaldo restored Portugal’s lead shortly before the break when his shot went through the hands of De Gea
- Spain equalised for a second time when Sergio Busquets knocked down a free kick for Costa to finish
- Nacho – who gave away the early penalty – put Spain ahead with a stunning long range drive off the post
- However Ronaldo was the star of the show once again, with a brilliant late free kick for his hat-trick
He did that thing. Who knows why he does it? Pulled his shorts up to expose those thighs. Maybe he thinks it intimidates. But who? It’s David de Gea in goal. He’s seen thighs before. He’s seen free-kicks, too.
But not many like this, obviously, because he didn’t move. As the ball Cristiano Ronaldo delivered from just outside the area sailed over his wall and into the top right corner, De Gea was no more than an interested observer, rooted to his line. What a goal, what a finish – and what a game. If there are many better than this over the next four weeks it is going to be one hell of a World Cup.
It was one of those matches in which every goal changed the balance of power. Portugal led, Spain drew level; Portugal led again, Spain equalised; Spain took the lead, Portugal pulled it back. Six goals, six swings. If this is repeated as the final next month, no-one will complain. Heavyweight title fights get rematches; why not this?
Cristiano Ronaldo sent David de Gea the wrong way to give his side the early lead over their Iberian neighbours
Diego Costa brilliantly equalised for Spain after out-muscling the defence and firing marvelously into the bottom corner
Ronaldo restored Portugal’s lead shortly before the break when his shot shockingly went through the hands of De Gea
Spain equalised for a second time when Sergio Busquets knocked down a free kick for Costa to finish from close range
Nacho – who gave away the early penalty – put Spain ahead three minutes later with a stunning long range drive off the post
However Ronaldo was the star of the show once again, with a brilliant late free kick to complete his hat-trick
De Gea could only watch, static, as the ball flew into the top corner and Ronaldo created another memorable moment
Ronaldo rips away, team mates in tow, to celebrate his 51st career hat-trick, and the 51st treble in World Cup history
PORTUGAL (4-4-2): Patricio 6; Soares 6, Pepe 5, Fonte 5, Guerreiro 6; Bernardo Silva 6 (Quaresma 69), Moutinho 6, William Carvalho 6, Bruno Fernandes 5 (Mario 69, 6); Ronaldo 9, Guedes 5.5 (Andre Silva 80)
Unused subs: Bruno Alves, M. Fernandes, Lopes, Dias, Pereira, Martins, Rui, Beto, Adrien Silva
Goals: Ronaldo 4 (pen), 44, 88
Booking: B.Fernandes 28
Manager: Fernando Santos 6.5
SPAIN (4-2-3-1): De Gea 4; Nacho 6.5, Pique 6, Ramos 6, Alba 6; Busquets 6.5, Koke 7; David Silva 6 (L. Vazquez 86), Isco 8.5, Iniesta 8 (Thiago 69); Costa 8 (Aspas 77)
Unused subs: Carvajal, Saul, Rodrigo, Odriozola, Kepa, Azpilicueta, Monreal, Asensio, Reina
Goals: Costa 24, 55, Nacho 58
Booking: Busquets 17
Manager: Fernando Hierro 7
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA) 7
That it was played in sweltering heat, even for a 9pm kick-off local time, makes it all the more remarkable. The pace barely dropped across 90 minutes. And one of the oldest players on the pitch kept going to the bitter, stifling end.
Ronaldo, 33, is now one of just four players to have scored in four World Cups, but this simple fact does not tell the whole story. Of the others, Miroslav Klose has 16 goals, Uwe Seeler 14, Pele 12. Going into this match, Ronaldo had three: one each in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He doubled his tournament total in the space of one night.
What a display it was. He won a penalty and scored it. Won a free-kick and scored that, too. In between, he was fortunate with an ordinary shot that De Gea inexplicably spilled, although that’s what Ronaldo does, even to world class opponents. He unsettles them, disturbs them. They never know what is coming next.
Certainly, Spain were wary of him, having witnessed so many feats in La Liga. His talent is said to be waning and yet the three goals here took his total for club and country this season to 51. Not bad for a spent force. The weather forecast warned of thunderstorms but it would be hard to match the electricity inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium, once Ronaldo sparked this game into life with a goal inside three minutes.
Here were two teams considered to have a real chance in Russia, going toe to toe. Portugal’s European Championship win has undoubtedly changed them, in terms of confidence; Spain always have the swagger of a stellar group, no matter the chaos that has enveloped them this week.
Managerial upheaval is no way to prepare for any World Cup fixture, let alone one as testing as this – yet a glance at the team sheet showed Fernando Hierro has hardly walked into the impossible job. It read like a who’s who of European football, and included some of the greatest individuals of the last decade or more. Do they even need coaching; or just transportation to the ground?
Yet, facing them, was arguably La Liga’s finest talent of all. When Julen Lopetegui agreed to swap international football for Real Madrid this summer, one of the names he will have most anticipated working with is Ronaldo.
Anyone here would understand why. Not just the set pieces, the goals, he also set up a fabulous opportunity for Goncalo Guedes, whose touch let him down. Whenever Ronaldo had the ball, Spain faltered. Even when he went quiet for a fair spell in the second-half, coach Fernando Santos didn’t take him off. Just as well, knowing what we now know.
Ronaldo stuck to his free-kick ritual from standing over the ball to striking it with his right foot towards the goal
A penalty was given after just three minutes when Ronaldo went down after contact from Spain defender Nacho
Ronaldo appeals for the penalty, which in real time looked soft, however replays clearly showed Nacho had made contact
De Gea attempted to put Ronaldo off with mind games before he took the penalty, but the Real Madrid star stayed cool
Ronaldo was typically composed under pressure, sending De Gea the wrong way after four minutes in Sochi
Ronaldo celebrates in his usual style – it is just his fourth World Cup goal in four tournaments, and his second penalty
Ronaldo has now scored at all eight major tournaments at which he has featured, stretching back to his debut at Euro 2004
True, Portugal’s is more of a collective effort than it once was – and winning the trophy in 2016 with Ronaldo off injured will have done wonders for the confidence of the group – but where Spain are plainly equal partners with playmakers to spare, Portugal lean heavily on Ronaldo’s immense quality.
His positioning, whether in assistance or looking to finish, is exceptional, his hunger never sated. His legs have gone, apparently, but don’t challenge him to a race just yet. The determination of his counter-attacking sprints remains one of the finest sights in football. At 33, this may be his last World Cup – but we say it because that would be true of most players, not because he ages like his contemporaries.
For Portugal’s opening goal, he simply beat his man for pace and drew a clumsy foul. Nacho sticking out a leg, which Ronaldo inevitably fell over. A first replay aroused suspicion, a second gave confirmation it was the right call. Certainly the extra officials studying the VAR screens were buying it. Nacho had tripped Ronaldo, even without nefarious intent. There was only one man who was going to take that kick.
De Gea had a little word before retreating to his place but, whatever he said, Ronaldo shrugged it off. He sent Manchester United’s goalkeeper the wrong way – although even had he guessed right it would be hard to imagine him laying a glove on the ball, such was the power and accuracy of Ronaldo’s finish.
Costa barged away Pepe before twisting away from Jose Fonte and finishing unstoppably on 24 minutes for the equaliser
The former Chelsea striker showed both his skill and his strength to score a brilliant and deserved leveler for Spain
Atletico Madrid forward Costa celebrates his goal – which was set up by a long ball from Sergio Busquets – with David Silva
Pepe was caught in the throat by Costa in the build-up and went down, however there was no indication of a foul
Ronaldo’s 44th-minute effort was hit with power, but the Manchester United keeper should have kept the low strike out
Ronaldo celebrates his second goal with the ecstatic Portugal subs – but it was a nightmare moment for De Gea and Spain
De Gea failed to get his gloves down to the ball in time, and it nestled in the bottom corner via the keeper’s right boot
De Gea can only look on dejected after his error, which put Spain behind after a half of football which they had dominated
Did this daunt Spain? No, it inspired them. They played some lovely football and Hierro was motivated to remove his jacket as he prowled the line. Diego Costa, meanwhile, was proving the perfect if unlikely foil. He is an odd choice Costa, for a team that rides the passing carousel.
A wonderful battering ram, how often does he get the service he needs for Spain? The equaliser challenged that theory. A long ball from Sergio Busquets was won by Costa in a duel with Pepe, who instinctively went down, claiming he had been fouled. Costa played on, so too Pepe’s team-mates. Then it was time to show his gentler side, teasing the red shirts, first this way, then that, until striking a lot shot past goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Costa had a dismal World Cup in 2014. Already, this felt different.
A minute before half-time, Ronaldo restored Portugal’s lead. Guedes seemed to get the ball trapped in a tight area and could only push it on. Ronaldo’s shot was straight at De Gea but the Manchester United goalkeeper let it squirm by him. In one way his club manager, Jose Mourinho, would have been delighted; in another, he really wouldn’t.
Yet Spain’s revival after half-time showed that, no matter the result, Hierro is a lucky man. Managers tend to take over teams in crisis. Facing relegation, probably a poor squad to boot. Yet this is an exceptional group. Incredible talents. Among the favourites. As Hierro’s old boss Sam Allardyce would no doubt remind him: it could be worse.
Spain continued to press after the break, and on 55 minutes Costa tapped in from two yards following a set piece routine
Silva landed a floating free kick right on Busquets’ head at the back post, and he put it on a plate for Costa to score
Nacho struck superbly from distance, his effort hitting the inside of the left post before nestling in the right side of the goal
The Spanish defender caught his half-volley sweetly, striking past the defenders and giving Rui Patricio no chance at all
Nacho is swamped by the celebrations of his team mates as Spain looked to cast away recent off-the-field uncertainty
Nacho shows four fingers – his squad number – after his terrific drive put Spain ahead with half an hour still to play
This magnificent photo shows the angle from which Nacho took his shot, and the distance from which he struck
The second equaliser belonged to Costa, too, the work of a consummate striker. David Silva struck a free-kick to the far post where Busquets won the header. Costa got there before his markers, simple as that. Stronger and more determined, he stuck out a toe and prodded the ball into the net.
The third, however, was a beauty. Portugal cleared and the ball fell to Nacho on the edge of the area. It was a hard take, on the volley, but needing to be kept down.
He executed both disciplines perfectly, the ball striking the inside of Rui Patricio’s far post, crossing the goal-line and in on the other side. Ronaldo got the last word, but it is worth remembering the manner in which Spain were beaten: a penalty, a free-kick and an uncommon error by the goalkeeper. Isco hit the bar, too. Not for the first time, Spain may have lulled the world into a false sense of security.
In the 88th minute, Ronaldo lined up a free kick central from 25 yards – and the predictable occurred as he scored the goal
It was unstoppably struck, curled up and around the wall to break Spanish hearts and light up the 2018 World Cup
Isco almost gave Spain the lead when he smashed against the bar, his effort bouncing down right on the line and away
Portugal keeper Rui Patricio is left helpless as Isco’s thunderbolt bounces off the line behind him as Portugal clung on
Isco and Silva call for the intervention of VAR on the Real midfielder’s cannon shot, however the tech proved it was not a goal
Silva strikes the wall with a free kick as Spain responded well from their early setback to dominate the first half in Sochi
Portugal’s Goncalo Guedes took too much time when Ronaldo set him up on a breakaway, his shot blocked by Sergio Ramos
Spain were coached by Fernando Hierro, following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui two days prior to their opening match
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