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Ronaldo’s glorious hat-trick leaves Spain wondering

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Ronaldo shines as Portugal draws with the mighty Spain.

Early Portuguese strike sets the tone of the half

Only after three minutes of the start of the match, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo won a penalty for his team. Ronaldo smartly ran Nacho on the left edge of the box, beating him with a step-over. Nacho, furious, rather absent-mindedly, dangled a leg and brought the Portuguese superstar down. The referee was a little too close to the two players to miss the action and immediately awarded a penalty to the Portuguese side.

GOAL (Ronaldo 4 pen): Ronaldo doesn’t miss many penalties, at least not on international stage, and he surely wasn’t going to miss this one: De Gea tried to put Ronaldo off but it didn’t work. Ronaldo ignored him and slapped a penalty into the right side of the net with De Gea going the wrong way.

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Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

For the next few minutes, a chain of Portuguese attacks followed: a couple of chances created by Ronaldo for his striker Fernandes and Guedes, all in vain, and a chance Ronaldo failed to convert. The fierce Portuguese attacks left the Spain defenders wondering for a little while until Diego Costa put his boots to work.

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GOAL (Diego Costa 24): The goal came from a long ball by Busquets, which Pepe could only head up in the air while being flattened by Costa. From there Costa picked up the loose ball, threw a couple of defenders aside and dragged a fine low shot past Patricio from 18 yards. They went to VAR to see if there was a foul on Pepe, but it wasn’t overturned.

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Diego Costa fires in the equaliser. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

As soon as Diego Costa scored the goal, a whole new Spanish team was seen on the pitch. Chance over chance was created and the Portuguese defenders found themselves in trouble then and again. If it wasn’t for Isco’s pole-hitting record, Spain would’ve taken the lead within minutes of Diego Costa’s magical goal. Pressure really does a team bad, except Ronaldo, of course.

GOAL (Ronaldo 44): Ronaldo, teed up in the D by a short pass from Guedes, drilled a left-foot shot straight at De Gea. It was well struck but should have been a routine save. Instead it slithered through De Gea and into the net.

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Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his second. Photograph: Stuart Franklin – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

A Portuguese, rather Ronaldo’s, half. Will he be able to complete his 51st hat-trick?

Spain turns things around, but just for what seemed like a second

A slow and calm running of the second half was interrupted by a free-kick awarded to the men in white. A free-kick that cancelled Ronaldo’s both goals.

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GOAL (Diego Costa 55): Iniesta was fouled 30 yards from goal in a central position. David Silva took a short free-kick with Koke and clipped the ball beyond the far post, where Busquets towered over his man to head back across goal. Diego Costa reacted fastest and stabbed the ball in from six yards.

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Diego Costa of Spain celebrates with team-mates after scoring his second. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Only three minutes after Diego Costa’s close-range blast, Nacho found the net from far out for Spain.

GOAL (Nacho 58): This will be one of the goals of the tournament, even if we play until 2027. A defensive clearance hit Carvalho and rebounded towards the edge of the box. It bounced up awkwardly for Nacho, who cut across the bouncing ball to swish a spectacular shot across Patricio and in over the far post. The technique was perfect, with the ball whistling just above the ground all the way into the net.

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Nacho celebrates after scoring Spain’s third. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

A couple of quick changes followed Nacho’s curving bullet: Portugal’s Joao Mario replaced Bruno Fernandes, Ricardo Quaresma replaced Bernardo Silva, and Spain’s legend Andres Iniesta gave way to Thiago Alcantara.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s frustration only peaked in the time that followed as Spain consistently blocked Portuguese attacks giving little to no space to the Real Madrid star. One attack was good enough to be written about: A long ball from Cedric invites Ronaldo to hare behind the defence. He is about to shoot or clatter into the outrushing De Gea on the edge of the box when Pique comes from the side to make a superb tackle. Goal kick.

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Ronaldo wasn’t going to give up so soon, though.

GOAL (Ronaldo 88): It was a glorious free-kick, curled around the wall and into the corner. That is astonishing. Before the free-kick, he was inhaling and concentrating as if he was about to take a penalty, not a free-kick from 25 yards. His mental strength is off the charts.

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Cristiano Ronaldo scores with a sublime free-kick. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

FINAL SCORE: Portugal 3-3 Spain

 

 

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