Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick rescues point for Portugal against Spain
Spain 3 (Costa 24’ 55’, Nacho 58’)
Portugal 3 (Ronaldo 4’ 44’ 88’)
By Jacob Gaynor
A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick salvaged Portugal a valuable point in a 3-3 draw against Spain in the two teams’ highly-anticipated clash on Friday.
A first-half brace from Cristiano Ronaldo ensured the defending European champions would head into the break with a slim lead despite Diego Costa scoring a late first-half goal.
With Portugal trailing by a goal, a late Ronaldo free-kick cancelled out second-half goals from Diego Costa and Nacho, securing the Portuguese a valuable point.
With the Spanish FA having sacked head coach Julen Lopetegui two days before the opening fixture, all eyes were firmly focused on Spain.
Portugal wasted no time in taking the lead, piling the pressure on Spain and their new coach Fernando Hierro.
Portuguese captain Ronaldo was awarded a penalty in just the third minute when his quick stepover caught out defender Nacho, who lunged towards his Real Madrid counterpart clipping him inside the box.
Having never scored against Spain, Ronaldo stepped up to the spot, sending goalkeeper David De Gea the wrong way to give Portugal the early advantage.
Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder David Silva saw his close-range shot blocked from a corner kick in the 22nd minute, before Portugal nearly scored from the resulting counter-attack with Ronaldo setting up Goncalo Guedes whose indecision allowed the Spanish defence to defuse the situation.
The missed opportunity would cost Portugal when, minutes later, Diego Costa levelled the scores beating keeper Rui Patricio with a perfectly-placed shot across goal.
Spain almost took the lead when Real Madrid midfielder Isco struck a wonderfully timed volley on the edge of the box hitting the underside of the crossbar and then the goal line, before bouncing back into the hands of a relieved Rui Patricio.
Against the run of play the ever- dangerous Ronaldo ensured his side would take the advantage into the break when his low and hard-hit shot escaped the clutches of David De Gea.
Portugal’s half-time lead didn’t last long, as Diego Costa levelled at 2-all with his second only 10 minutes after the restart.
After conceding the early penalty defender, Nacho made up for his earlier error in stunning fashion, smashing a right-footed volley from outside the box that hammered off both posts before settling into the net to give Spain the lead.
Hierro’s men looked to have escaped with the win but it was Cristiano Ronaldo who would have the final say. Only two minutes from time the 33-year-old struck a free kick from just outside the box that dipped under the crossbar to again draw the sides level.
This was one of the most anticipated matches of the World Cup and the six-goal thriller didn’t disappoint.
Spain will clash with Group B leaders Iran on Wednesday while Ronaldo’s men will search for their first win against Morocco.
Shots on Target:
Rui Patricio, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Cedric Soares, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Bernard Silva (69’), Bruno Fernandes (68’), Goncalo Guedes (80’), Cristiano Ronaldo (C)
Substitutes: Adrien Silva, Joao Mario (68’), Andre Silva (80’), Anthony Lopes, Ricardo Quaresma (69’), Ruben Dias, Beto, Ricardo Pereira, Manuel Fernades, Bruno Alves
David De Gea, Sergio Ramos (C), Gerard Pique, Nacho, Jordi Alba, Koke, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (70’), David Silva (86’), Isco, Diego Costa (77’)
Substitutes: Niquez, Asensio, Arrizabalaga, Monreal, Moreno, Ordiozola, Aspas (77’), Reina, Carvajal, Vasquez (86’), Thiago Alcantara (70’)