One of the most keenly-awaited games of the tournament delivered more than it promised. And it was befitting that the two hard-nosed sides stopped each other at a 3-3 tie. Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick saved his side from a defeat in a Group B blockbuster with Spain.
Soccer’s numero uno, the only Portuguese who looked like troubling Spanish armada rescued his side through a sizzling free kick in the 88th minute.
Scoring a first hat-trick of the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo put his side up in the 4th minute scoring off a penalty kick after being tripped by Spanish defender Nacho Fernandez.
20 minutes later in the game, Diego Costa levelled for La Roja in a remarkable displaying of brute force and skills selling dummy to three Portuguese defenders.
But Ronaldo pulled the European champions ahead again right before halftime with a shot that squeezed under goalie David de Gea.
The see-saw never stopped. Costa clubbed an equaliser in the 55th from a long shot off the left wing.
Three minutes later, it was a payback moment for the defender Nacho who had conceded a penalty to Portugal. His brute stunner, first goal for his country, looked to have given Spain a galvanising victory two days after their preparations were thrown into disarray when coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked.
But the evening was not over for Ronaldo who sealed a draw for his side and becoming the first player to score in eight consecutive major international tournaments.
“Well, I’m very happy. It’s a personal best which is beautiful, it’s one more in my career and to me the most important is to highlight what the team has done. We have played against one of the tournament’s favourites and we were winning twice during the match so we almost got the three points and then we managed to draw…” Ronaldo said in a post match presser.
The Portugal captain also said his side has it all to go far in the tournament but need to take each match as it comes.
“In my opinion, it was a fair result and obviously we are very happy because the game was about to end and we managed to equalise, and to value what the team did, it was a very hard fought game and now we have to think about the next match…” he said.
Spain’s new manager, former ace Fernando Hierro, lauded his team’s strong show of unity after suffering an early setback.
“We know that players sometimes have good days and sometimes bad days, but we are a family, we’re a team. Diego Costa has played a sensational match tonight but it’s all of us together, we don’t leave anybody lying on the wayside. We are a family,” Hierro said.
The two now will take on Iran and Morocco in their next games.