Reigning Balon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo netted an inspired hattrick as neighbors Portugal and Spain play out an exhilarating 3-3 draw in their opening game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia on Friday night.
Atletico Madrid star Diego Costa also netted twice for Spain but it was Ronaldo’s sublime free kick two minutes from time which ensured Portugal’s record of having never lost a World Cup game in which they score first remains in tact.
It was always going to be a Ronaldo show and it took him just three minutes to make a mark when he won a penalty after a nimble footwork dummied his clubmate Nacho. He picked himself up to send David De Gea the wrong direction from the spot.
The Portuguese threatened further but Goncalo Guedes twice failed to finish off counterattacking moves and they were duly punished by a trademark Diego Costa goal. The forward battled and won an aerial tussle with Pepe before keeping his composure to score in the 24th minute.
The Spaniards dominated from then on and almost went in front two minutes after Costa’s goal but Isco’s rasping effort came back off the underside of the cross bar with goalline technology confirming the ball did not cross the line.
Portugal and Ronaldo would however go back in front just before the break in fortuitous circumstance. Guede passed for Ronaldo at the edge of the Spanish box and the Real Madrid hitman’s left footed effort embarrassingly screwed past De Gea’s hands.
Spain levelled matters once again, ten minutes after the break after a well executed free kick routine. David Silva’s cross was headed back to the face of goal by Sergio Busquets and Costa was on hand to finish for his second goal of the evening.
The 2010 Champions then quickly went in front for the first time in the game three minutes later through Nacho who atoned for his first half indiscretion with a howitzer which went in off Rui Patricio’s right hand post.
Spain looked set to coast home with the win and manager Fernando Hierro seem to be resting some of his stars for the next game. Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa and David Silva were all substituted before Ronaldo struck once again two minutes from time.
This time, Portugal’s star man hit a perfect free kick from 25 yards over a rather short Spanish wall, leaving De Gea rooted to one spot to claim his sixth hattrick in Portugal’s colour.
Both teams claimed a share of the spoils but will go into subsequent games with confidence in qualifying from the group in spite of Iran’s leadership position in Group B after their shock win over Morocco.