FIFA World Cup

Ronaldo relishes ‘beautiful moment’ with new World Cup record

Reuters
Ronaldo relishes ‘beautiful moment’ with new World Cup record

HISTORIC. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal.

Hannah Mckay/REUTERS

Cristiano Ronaldo writes his name in the record books to become the first man to score in five World Cups

DOHA, Qatar – Cristiano Ronaldo said he was living a “beautiful moment” after becoming the first player to score in five men’s World Cups as he helped Portugal to a 3-2 victory over Ghana on Thursday, November 24 (Friday, November 25, Manila time) at the start of their campaign in Qatar.

“It’s a beautiful moment in my fifth World Cup,” Ronaldo told reporters. “We won. We started on a good foot. It’s a very important win. We know in these competitions the first match is fundamental.

“It’s another record too,” he said. “That makes me very proud. I am very happy for the team to have put on excellent performance. It was difficult but we deserved to win.”

Asked about his acrimonious departure from Manchester United this week, Ronaldo said the only thing that counted was Portugal’s win.  “All the rest, it doesn’t matter,” he added.

Ronaldo drilled home a penalty in the 65th minute of the Group H encounter to set his side on their way and while Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana, Portugal turned on the afterburners with two quick-fire goals to effectively seal the deal at Stadium 974.

Joao Felix produced a delicate finish to give them the lead and Rafael Leao added a third to hand Portugal their first win in the opening match of the World Cup since 2006, even if Osman Bukari pulled another one back for Ghana late on.

The win was not the most convincing for Portugal, and will come as some relief for Fernando Santos’s side, who top the group with three points and next face Uruguay on Monday, when Ghana play South Korea.

For all Portugal’s enterprising attacking play and the goalscoring performances of Felix and Leao, it was Ronaldo who once again showed his unparalleled ability to draw the limelight.

“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” Santos told reporters. “In 50 years time, we will still be talking about him.”

Ronaldo was substituted in the 88th minute to a rousing reception around Stadium 974 in Doha at the start of what is likely to be his last World Cup.

Santos rebuffed suggestions by his Ghanaian opposite number Otto Addo that the penalty decision was incorrect – given for a shove by defender Mohammed Salisu – and should have been reviewed by US referee Ismail Elfath via the VAR system.

“If the VAR tells the referee that he has to have a look, he will have a look,” he said. “If the VAR didn’t call over the referee it’s because they watched the images and there was nothing to see.”

Santos, in charge of Portugal since 2014 and who led them to the 2016 European Championship title, said the game had its “highs and lows” for Portugal and he was unhappy about conceding two goals.

“Now we have to look and see what happened with the players and respond to it,” he said.

The bitter end to Ronaldo’s second spell at Manchester United had dominated the buildup to the match in much the same way the forward seems to dominate the way Portugal play.

Against Ghana, Ronaldo seemed to exert a planetary gravitational pull on the ball, with teammates seeking him out at every opportunity.

For vast swathes of the match, everything revolved around Ronaldo, who lurked threateningly on the edge of the Ghana box, with almost all his side’s attacking moves ending up at his feet.

He had two early chances, a one-on-one when a heavy touch let him down, and a header where he typically hovered in the air before glancing his effort wide.

He then smacked the ball in the back of the net after 31 minutes only to realize the referee had already blown his whistle for a foul.

For Ghana, the youngest squad at the World Cup, their early ambitions rarely stretched beyond the halfway line as the lowest-ranked side in the tournament set about keeping almost everyone behind the ball at all times in the first half.

Most of the action was condensed into a relatively short period after the 60th minute with Portugal taking the lead when awarded a soft penalty after Ronaldo went down following minimal shoulder-to-shoulder contact with Mohammed Salisu.

Ronaldo closed his eyes as he waited to begin his run up, stuttered and smashed the ball into the net to the keeper’s right.

The entire Portugal team raced down the touchline to pile on top of the 37-year-old, who surpassed Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose as the only player to find the net in five separate men’s World Cups.

It is the 10th consecutive major tournament in which Ronaldo has found the net although Ghana coach Otto Addo was not in the mood to be charitable.

“It was the wrong decision… It was actually a foul against us,” he said of the penalty award.

“If somebody scores a goal, congratulations. But this was a gift. A special gift from the referee.”

As it was, his Ghana side fired back quickly when Mohammed Kudus’s cross bobbled its way through a defender’s legs to Ayew who tapped home.

Portugal, however, then revved into gear with Felix latching onto a Bruno Fernandes throughball and lifting his finish nonchalantly over the keeper.

Fernandes was the architect of their third goal too, playing another superb throughball for substitute Leao to slide his finish across the keeper and into the bottom corner.

There was tension at the end, however, as Ghana pulled another goal back with Osman Bukari, appearing unmarked in the box, heading in a cross from the left in the 89th minute, giving a sliver of hope to Ghana’s fans behind that goal.

There was to be no fairytale ending for the Ghanaians though and the night belonged to Ronaldo. – Rappler.com

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