22/04/2024

Cristiano Ronaldo was again at the centre of attention as he became the first man to score in five separate FIFA World Cups. (Photo: FIFA World Cup)

Portugal survived a late scare from Ghana to claim all three points in a game where Cristiano Ronaldo reached new heights and became the first man to score a goal in five FIFA World Cups.

The two halves were polar opposites as Portugal dominated proceedings early but was unable to break through a disciplined Ghanaian defence.

However, this all changed in the second half when Ronaldo made his presence felt in his last dance at football’s showpiece event and converted a penalty to break the deadlock in the 65th minute.

The goal meant the Portuguese captain has now surpassed Lionel Messi, Miroslav Klose, Pele and Uwe Seele, who previously held the record alongside the 37-year-old with goals in four different World Cups.

In a career which will go down in history, Ronaldo has now scored eight goals in 18 matches at the FIFA World Cup.

He is now just one goal behind Eusebio, who holds the record for most goals for Portugal in World Cups.

Ronaldo’s goal brought the game to life and the Black Stars soon hit back just eight minutes later through Andrew Ayew.

With just over 15 minutes left in normal time, it would have been easy to think the game was headed for a draw, particularly after the anti-climatic first stanza.

However, the attackers ran riot in the dying stages in what will go down as one of the great group stage encounters.

After both defences were solid and held strong in the first half, both sets of players looked threatening with the ball and the pragmatic clash soon turned into a thrilling end-to-end contest.

Ghana was on level terms for just five minutes before Joao Felix ran onto an inch-perfect through ball to restore the lead for Portugal.

It was double-delight for the 2016 Euros champions as Rafael Leao scored just minutes after he made his way onto the pitch to give his side a 3-1 lead.

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It looked like Portugal had done enough to claim all three points and Fernando Santos gave Ronaldo an early rest to receive a standing-ovation on his record-breaking night.

However, the Black Stars refused to die and Ronaldo could only watch on from the bench as Osman Bukari found himself wide-open in the box and headed home his side’s second goal of the game.

After Portugal looked in full control, the tides turned and Ghana dictated terms as the game entered nine minutes of stoppage time.

In an effort to pull off an unlikely comeback, the Black Stars switched from a five at the back formation, to a back four and pushed players forward.

As a result of this tactical change, both sets of defences appeared vulnerable, in what was a stark contrast to the first half where both teams were sturdy at the back.

With just seconds left on the clock, Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa made a save from a last-ditch cross. In an effort to kill time, he threw the ball on the ground in front of him, unaware that Inaki Williams was right behind him.

The Ghanaian striker pounced on the mistake from Costa and had the chance to snatch a point in the most dramatic of circumstances. However, the Athletic Bilbao striker lost his footing and was unable to finish the opportunity and Portugal ran out 3-2 victors.

In many ways, it was a case of lightning striking twice for Ghana, who lost 2-1 to Portugal in its last World Cup campaign in 2014.

In that clash, Portugal also scored the opener before the Black Stars equalised, but despite a number of chances were unable to hold on for a draw as Ronaldo scored to give his side the three points.

Portugal’s win means it now sits atop of Group H after the first matchday and will now prepare for its clash against Uruguay on Tuesday morning Australia time.

Ronaldo will look to equal Eusebio’s record in that clash as his side will be eager to claim revenge after Portugal was knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by Uruguay.

The Black Stars will return to action on Monday night, where they will face South Korea at the Education City Stadium.

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