Cristiano Ronaldo scored a scintillating hat trick including a last gasp equaliser to rescue Portugal a point in their opening Group B match in a sensational encounter against Spain.
With Iran snatching a last minute winner against Morocco in the other Group B encounter, a defeat for either side would have left them under pressure going in to the last two games, having almost no chance of winning the group. But Ronaldo’s 88th minute free kick assured qualification was still very much in Portugal’s hands and winning the group is still a big possibility for the Euro 2016 winners.
The build-up to the match had been dominated by the shock sacking of Julen Lopetegui as Spain boss two days before the tournament started. Fernando Hierro will take positives from his first game in charge with a performance that arguably deserved to get all three points.
The game burst in to life early on when Ronaldo’s run lead to him being tripped by Nacho giving the ref no option but to point to award a penalty. He then sent De Gea the wrong way from the spot to give Portugal a dream start to the tournament inside the first four minutes.
The Spaniards took just 20 minutes to reply however, as Costa chested down a long ball before wriggling away from a couple of players and striking superbly in to the bottom corner to draw Spain level. Portugal complained that Pepe was elbowed from Costa in the build up, but the VAR saw nothing wrong with it, so the goal stood.
Just minutes after, Isco saw a shot come crashing back down off the bar before Jordi Alba’s shot was saved. Some thought the ball bounced in from Isco’s shot but goal line technology showed most of the ball was on the line and not over.
Just as it looked like all the drama was over for the first half, De Gea made a shocking error letting Ronaldo’s shot squirm past him in what was a simple save for the Man United keeper. Personally for De Gea, it’s been a great few years showing why he’s arguably the best in the world but that was his lowest point probably in his career, with it being in such a big match.
Again Spain reacted well from going a goal behind, finding their equaliser just 10 minutes after the break. A well worked free kick routine saw David Silva’s cross superbly headed in to the danger area by Busquets, leaving Costa with a simple tap in. It was Costa’s second of the evening and was deserved on the balance of play.
Spain pushed on and three minutes later lead for the first time thanks to Nacho’s fantastic strike going in after hitting both posts. The ball was deflected out to him and the right back hit the perfect shot making it simply unstoppable for Rui Patricio.
Portugal pushed for the equaliser, but Spain were looking relatively comfortable for a lot of the time and it looked out they hold out and get themselves off to a great start to the tournament.
But with just two minutes left Spain gave away a cheap free kick and with one of Portugal’s last chances of the game, Ronaldo stepped up and struck a perfect free kick to earn his Portugal side a point. In a game of some fantastic goals, this probably topped the lot as the free kick swerved over and round the wall leaving De Gea rooted to the spot as it nestled in the top corner. The goal meant that Ronaldo is the oldest hat-trick scorer in World Cup history and it’s his 51st hat-trick for club and country.
What it Means..
Both sides now sit level in second in Group B after the match day one, behind Iran and ahead of Morocco. But, both sides will be very confident of going through with the main target really to win the group. They both next play on Wednesday, with Portugal playing Morocco while Spain take on Iran. Both sides will be hoping to win by a comfortable margin, knowing now that it will most likely come down to goal difference between Portugal and Spain to decide who wins the group.