Trying to put their 2-2 draw with Mexico behind them, Portugal came into this match looking to right the ship against Russia. Fernando Santos made a couple changes from that draw, including starting Bernardo Silva and André Silva.
Portugal XI vs. Russia: Rui Patrício; Cédric, Pepe, Alves, Guerreiro; Gomes, William, Adrien, B. Silva; A.Silva, Ronaldo.— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 21, 2017
Honestly this wasn’t that exciting of a match, I’m not sure what was going on with the European champs, but they didn’t play very dynamic and were more than happy to absorb pressure and try to break on the counter. The Russians would come out and clog up the middle of the pitch, forcing the visitors to attack down the wings.
Even with the Russians pushing Portugal’s attacks down the wing, it didn’t take long for Portugal to open their account. Raphaël Guerreiro put a sweet cross into the box where Ronaldo was lurking at the back post. He put his head to the ball and it found the back of the net after flying past Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev.
Up until that moment, Ronaldo had been a bit absent in attack. But CR7 always shows up when he’s needed and he put his country ahead 1-0 with his 74th goal for his country.
Who knew that in the 8th minute that would be the only goal we’d see? Portugal would have several more chances to increase their lead but couldn’t capitalize. It was their finishing that let them down.
That’s how the half would end, Portugal up on the Russians 1-0.
At the restart, Russia came out pressing Portugal hard, though when they did win the ball back, sloppy passing gave it back to the visitors. In the 51st minute, André Silva headed the ball on goal, forcing Akinfeev into a full stretch fingertip save to keep Portugal from going ahead by two goals.
In the 61st minute, Russia had their chance, coming from a nice cross into the box. Unfortunately, no one in a Russian uniform could get a head on it - it flew harmlessly through the box, a chance not taken. Two minutes later, Ronaldo missed a header from point blank range, another chance to put a second goal on the board.
As time drew on in the second half, Russia started to concentrate their attack down the left wing, going after Cédric. André´ Silva had a great chance on goal in the 74th minute with a point blank header and a hell of a save from Akinfeev, who was keeping Russia in the game with several key stops.
After four minutes of stoppage time, it ended Portugal 1-0 Russia. The Selecção now sit atop their group - one point above host nation Russia. Portugal plays again on Saturday against New Zealand (if the team from Oceania fall to Mexico today, they will be eliminated from the tournament).
What is there to say? Game winning goal. Check. Creating havoc in the Russian defense because they had no idea where he’d pop up? Check. Seriously though, another good night for the Portugal Captain.
Then there’s this:
Another one off the Ronaldo list: ✅ pic.twitter.com/WRZkCO6GR8— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 21, 2017
He once again is showing why he’s the best in the world. His goal also made him the first player in football history to score in 8 consecutive International competitions. He’s also now scored 19 goals in his last 13 matches for Club and Country.
There was a tiny bit of a downside coming from this match, which was his (and really the team’s) inability to finish at times. Had things gone their way, there would have been more than just the one goal and the game really should have finished with at least 3 goals to the visitors.
Player Rating: 8.5/10
He had a much better match than the one against Mexico. Honestly, I chalk up the bad performance against El Tri to rust. Keep in mind, he’s been out with broken ribs since early April, so it’s to be expected. Today he looked a lot more like the Pepe we all know; a tenacious defender that opposing teams hate to deal with.
Late in the match he had a great clearance in the box in the 69th minute with the Russians actually threatening. His only blemish on an otherwise fantastic night for the center-back, was the late yellow he picked up.
Player Rating: 7.5/10