Ronaldo was given a free roaming role in Fernando Santos's side, as Portugal looked to make up for the lack of a designated striker. Surrounded by several creative midfielders, Ronaldo looked to get into the groove by connecting with his teammates and by trying to work chances on goal. But he initially struggled to get into a rhythm as he played some loose passes and missed a brilliant chance to score from close range on 9 minutes, as he skied a his shot over the bar. But after the 10 minute mark, Ronaldo began combining with his fullback Eliseu quite well and shot a brilliant free kick from 25 yards, which was somehow matched by an even better save. After half time, Portugal's dominance was even more profound than it had been in the first 45 minutes, as they enjoyed bouts of possession in Bulgaria's half for several minutes. But just like in the first half, the clever playmakers of Adrien Silva, Rafa, and Vieirinha, produced some good interplay, but were severely lacking a good final ball. Nevertheless, Ronaldo pummeled away, releasing shots on Stoyanov's goal from free kicks and from his own making. But in the crucial moment, CR7 choked, failing to convert a penalty and the rebound on 67 minutes. From then on, it seemed fated that Bulgaria would win, as Stoyanov's confidence was buoyed by his good save. Two minutes later, Ronaldo made a run into the box and stretched to nudge the ball home, but Stoyanov rushed off his line and deflected the ball away. Portugal experienced a lull from this period onwards to the 80th minute, as fruitless possession in front of Bulgaria's box failed to carve any goalscoring opportunities. But when Nani missed from point blank range around that time, Portugal's confidence renewed and they surged forward with greater incisiveness. Looking to have his final say, Ronaldo finally got on the end of a Portuguese corner and directed the ball skillfully off the ground and towards the top corner, but Stoyanov was not to be beaten, as he acrobatically clawed the ball away from his goal. Shaking his head as the final whistle blew, Cristiano will be wondering how in the world Portugal lost this game.
Pepe in contrast to Cristiano, enjoyed a solid opening to the game, cutting out the few attacks that Bulgaria were able to create in the first 15 minutes. But all that changed, when on 19 minutes, a Bulgarian player made a run to the left-hand side of the box and attempted a weak dribble past Pepe and Bruno Alves. Bruno Alves flopped badly at the ball, and Pepe somehow missed his tackle completely, swinging his leg wildly over the ball. Scarcely believing his luck, the Bulgarian attacker bundled past the Portuguese center backs and poked the ball past an utterly bewildered Anthony Lopes. It would've been comical had I not been supporting Portugal. But it was a credit to Pepe that that he picked himself up from that mistake and looked to personally make up for it. After a Ronaldo free kick that deflected off the wall around the 30 minute area, Pepe headed an effort from the resulting corner that looked destined for goal. But amazingly, Nani thought the header was for him, and made an amazing goal line clearance to save Bulgaria for conceding (I actually laughed at that one). But Pepe continued, spurred on further by this comic relief. On 37 minutes he made a crucial block on a cross that surely would've led to another goal, and snuffed out any Bulgarian danger for the rest of the match (save one, but we'll get there later). On 67 mintues, Pepe pranced over to the left-wing, and delivered an outside of the boot pass that was clearly blocked by a hand inside the box (mind you, this hand was flailing over the player's head; some people I tell you). Pumping his fist, Pepe's elation was short-lived, as Ronaldo decided to play mind games with the keeper instead of just doing what he's best at, which is smashing the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Like I said, there was lull from then on to the 80th minute and while Pepe had little to do as Portugal pushed and pushed, he did make sure that he gave Fernando Santos another heart attack, when he miscontrolled a ball that gave Bulgaria a prime chance to make it 2-0 (which was missed). Overall a weird game for Pepe, as he made two horrid mistakes but was actually quite good apart from that.
(Here is the international break schedule again)