Ronaldo fires Portugal to win over Russia
Confederations Cup, Group A, Otkrytie Arena – Russia 0 Portugal 1 (Ronaldo, 8)
Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half opener proved to be the winner for Portugal who moved top of Group A following a 1-0 win over hosts Russia at the Otkrytie Arena.
The 32-year-old put any rumours about his Real Madrid future to the back of his mind, as he broke the deadlock after only eight minutes with a back-post header for his 74th international goal.
Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov started with a defensive 4-5-1 system in an effort to contain the European champions, but the plan backfired after Ronaldo’s early goal.
The hosts responded to a disconcerting performance by changing shape for the second period and although they slightly improved, they weren’t able to find a way back into the match. The best opportunity fell to defender Georgi Dzhikiyi in injury time, but he couldn’t keep his header down.
The win means Portugal are on the verge progressing to the latter stages; a victory over rank outsiders New Zealand on Saturday will seal their place in the semi-final. Meanwhile, Russia may need to beat Mexico on the same day to have any chance of qualifying.
Andre Gomes of Portugal competes with Aleksandr Samedov of Russia during the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Group A match between Russia and Portugal at Spartak Stadium on June 21, 2017 in Moscow, RussiaGetty Images
There's no stopping Cristiano: Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding his future at Real Madrid, Ronaldo keeps football at the forefront of his mind. The 32-year-old’s potential next move has dominated the headlines all week, but this performance will ensure he makes the back pages on Thursday for the right reasons.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – To anyone who believes the top players don’t care about the Confederations Cup, this performance was for you. The Real Madrid star broke the deadlock with a clever finish and almost grabbed a brace after a breath-taking piece of skill.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal heads at goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Group A match between Russia and Portugal at Spartak Stadium on June 21, 2017 in Moscow, Russia.Getty Images
8’ - GOAL! Portugal are ahead and it's Ronaldo with the opener. He has now scored 74 times for his country. The superstar times his run perfectly to drift behind Russia's defender Kudryashov and head home from Guerreiro's deep cross from eight yards.
31’ - CHANCE! Ronaldo is granted far too much space and he bursts into the penalty area. He dances his way past Vasin before shooting but Akinfeev does brilliantly to get in front of the shot. The rebound falls to Cedric whose cross is cleared by the Russian defence.
50’ - GREAT SAVE! Ronaldo feeds Cedric who delivers a cross into the Russian penalty area. Andre Silva leaps like a salmon out of water and heads it goalwards but Akinfeev keeps it out with a wonderful one-handed save.
: Dmitriy Poloz of Russia tackles Cedric Soares of Portugal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Group A match between Russia and Portugal at Spartak Stadium on June 21, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Robbie Jay BarrattGetty Images
63’ - RONALDO MISSES! The 32-year-old dances past a couple of Russian defenders before feeding Andre Gomes. Ronaldo is unmarked as the cross comes into the penalty area, but somehow fails to get his header on target. Russia survive.
88’ - PENALTY APPEAL! Panic inside the Portugal box! Bukharov goes down under a challenge but the referee signals play on. The Russian manager is called for the VAR system to be used, but the ref isn't interested! Probably the right decision, to be fair.
90’+ 2 - OVER! The corner is delivered. Dzhikiya rises above Pepe, but can't keep his header down. That could be Russia's final opportunity.