Cristiano Ronaldo produced a magical individualistic performance on Friday as European champions, Portugal, forced their Iberian neighbours, Spain, to a 3-3 draw in an entertaining group B game Russia 2018 World Cup game.
The game played in the black sea resort of Sochi began on a frenetic note as early as the fourth minute after Portugal were awarded a penalty, following a challenge in the box by the Spaniard, Nacho, on club teammate Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid attacker dusted himself up and coolly dispatched the penalty past goalkeeper David De Gea.
Spain, who were playing their first game after the dismissal of their coach, Julen Lopetegui, equalised 20 minutes later from a classic striker’s goal by the ebullient Diego Costa.
The Atletico Madrid forward nicked the ball off defender Pepe in the air, twisted his two Portuguese markers sideways on the edge of the box before he unleashed a fiery right-footed shot past goalkeeper Rui Patrico.
Portugal, however, had the last say of the first half. Upon receiving a pass from his strike partner, Goncalo Guedes, Ronaldo swiftly turned to his left and played a shot directly at De Gea in the 44th minute. However, the ever-reliable De Gea surprisingly fumbled, allowing the ball to slip through his fingers, thereby handing the Portuguese a half-time lead.
Upon resumption of the second half, the La Roja upped their tempo and were rewarded in the 55th minute with a brace from Costa. David Silva played a pre-planned routine free-kick, which was headed across goal by Sergio Busquets to Costa, who easily tapped in the ball into the back of the net for his brace.
Spain grew in confidence after the equaliser and began to play their eye-candy “tiki-taka” game, dominating possession and moving around with ease. That approach resulted in the team going ahead for the first time in the game with their third goal in the 58th minute.
Isco and Jordi Alba beautifully interchanged the ball on the left wing and the former played a square ball across the Portuguese goal and was met by Nacho, who produced a wonderful volley that shook both uprights from 15 meters.
The game, however, turned on its head in the 88th minute after Spain conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position after a challenge on Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain grabbed the ball, steadied himself with a facial expression that portrayed total concentration and determination, and struck a beautiful free kick past the Spanish defensive wall and a stagnant De Gea into the goalpost to claim a hat-trick.
The result leaves Iran on top of the group with three points, having earlier defeated Morocco 1-0. Spain and Portugal are second and third respectively, while Morocco occupies the last spot in the group.