FIFA World Cup: Portugal tie with Spain in a 6-goal feast

In one of the most memorable matches in World Cup history, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 51st hat trick, the third goal coming towards the end of play to deny Spain victory

Picture courtesy: Twitter
Picture courtesy: Twitter

Lesley Esteves

The match between European champions Portugal and 2010 World champions Spain promised to be a cracker, and lived up to it’s billing. The first few minutes of the first half of the first all-European clash at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia were deceptive. In just the 2ndminute, Spanish defender Nacho foolishly fouled Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo in the Spanish penalty area. And Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t miss. De Gea went one way and Ronaldo went the other and Portugal were one up as early as the 3rdminute.

Right after this came a spell of fantastic football from Spain, who began the fight back immediately. Portugal, lacking cohesion, wasted time after that first goal while Spain pressed hard. The Portuguese let Spain take the momentum, despite making two spell-binding breakaway actions that ended in naught.

Spain kept attacking, with less of the famous tiki taka style of the past but still maintaining possession, and winning corner after corner. Against the run of play, Ronaldo won a free quick in a promising position in the 17thminute and Sergio Busquets won a yellow card, having caught Gonçalo Guedes on the ankle. Ronaldo’s free kick, though, went straight into the wall.

In a breakaway action from Portugal, Guedes then failed to finish a plumb opportunity in front of the Spanish goal in 21stminute. A few minutes later he would greatly regret not converting it, as Diego Costa equalised for Spain with a superb individual goal in the 24thminute. A justly deserved goal for Spain which looked the better team all through the first half, despite being behind on the scoreboard.

It was Portuguese Bruno Fernandes’s turn to get his name written on the yellow card in the 27th minute, gifting Spain a free quick in a sweet spot right outside the Portuguese penalty area. David Silva, however, kicked straight into the Portuguese wall.

Picture courtesy: Social media
Picture courtesy: Social media
Spain’s Diego Costa in action against Portugal. Costa scored a brace for the Spanish side

Spain kept getting and taking its chances, with a full seven shots on goal in the first half. Iniesta went just wide in the 34th minute, then Isco almost made it 2-1 for Spain in the 40th minute but Portuguese goalie Rui Patricio made a great save.

Then again, against the run of play, Portugal went ahead as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second of the night. Spanish goalkeeper De Gea got behind the ball but it slipped away and found the net. To be fair, the shot from Ronaldo had a lot of power in it.

The first real action in the second half came in the 53rd minute with a free kick for Spain after Iniesta was fouled. In the action that followed, Diego Costa received a header and neatly kicked the ball into the Portuguese net. 2-2.

Then Spain got the reward it justly deserved, with Nacho netting another goal in the 58thminute after a beautiful, flowing team effort. The man who gave away the penalty in the 2ndminute, scored the first goal for his country when it counted most.

Portugal was now behind for the first time, it’s over dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo laid bare at the start of the World Cup. And what did Ronaldo do? He lived up to his billing, to his claim of being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, footballer ever. The Portuguese captain stepped up and scored a beautiful, curling free kick in the 89thminute to make it 3-3!

In the bargain, he saved another Portugal record, which has never lost a World Cup match after scoring the opening goal.

Earlier on Friday, Iran won against Morocco; courtesy a 95-minute own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz, putting the Iranian side on top of the table in Group B. Spain follows in on number 2, while Portugal takes the third spot with both teams having a point each from this game. While Portugal play Morocco next on June 20, Spain’s next clash is against Iran follows on the same day when both the teams will look to grab three points and take the front seat in their group.

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