Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in five World Cups, but Portugal required a couple of late goals to rescue a nervy 3-2 win against Ghana on Thursday.
Just two days after having his Manchester United contract terminated by mutual consent, free agent Ronaldo converted a penalty to break down a stubborn Ghana side in their Group H opener.
Ghana were furious with the awarding of the 65th-minute spot-kick for Mohammed Salisu’s challenge on Ronaldo, but they hit back through Andre Ayew in the 73rd minute.
However, Joao Felix fired Portugal back in front and substitute Rafael Leao added a third, which proved important when Osman Bukari scored a late consolation for Ghana, who missed a glorious chance to snatch a point through Inaki Williams.
Ronaldo was denied by Lawrence Ati-Zigi after a heavy first touch and headed wide from the best of Portugal’s limited first-half chances, before having a goal ruled out for a foul.
Alidu Seidu was lucky to only be shown a yellow early in the second half after locking heads with Joao Felix, but Ghana were less fortunate when a penalty was given to Portugal
Salisu was penalised for his challenge on Ronaldo, despite appearing to touch the ball before the player, and the superstar forward made no mistake from the spot.
That sparked some life into Ghana and Ayew steered home a leveller after Mohammed Kudus pulled the ball back into his path, but Portugal’s own response was equally as swift.
Joao Felix raced onto Bruno Fernandes’ throughball and dinked over Ati-Zigi, before Leao – on the field for just 45 seconds – curled in a delightful third for Fernando Santos’ side.
Bukari, himself introduced from the bench, headed in from a Baba Rahman cross to set up a tense finish and Williams almost snuck an equaliser when he took the ball off the feet of an oblivious Costa before slipping at the crucial moment.
What does it mean? Ronaldo helps under-par Portugal get the job done
Ronaldo ensured he remained in the headlines with his breakthrough goal, but Portugal also needed fellow forwards Joao Felix and Leao to step up at Stadium 974.
Santos will not be pleased with his side’s below-par showing, even if they did finish with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.92 compared to 0.80 for Ghana.
Following shock losses for Argentina and Germany, though, Portugal ultimately got the job done to top Group H ahead of South Korea and Uruguay, who earlier drew 0-0.
CR7 makes history
Ronaldo’s goal will ensure his name will forever be in World Cup folklore as the first – and quite possibly only for a while – player to score in five separate tournaments.
As a sign of his longevity, the 37-year-old is both Portugal’s youngest and oldest scorer at the World Cup, having netted his first goal against Iran in 2006 at the age of 21 years and 132 days.
Ghana take time to get going
Ghana became the second team in World Cup history to fail to have a shot or a touch in the opposition box in the first half of a game since records began in 1966.
Their first shot did not arrive until the 54th minute, yet they came to life in the final quarter of the match with a couple of goals, the latter of which Bukari celebrated by doing Ronaldo’s ‘Siu’ celebration.
Key Opta Facts
– Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has become the first player to score in five different editions of the World Cup (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022).
– Portugal have won their opening game at a World Cup finals for the first time in four attempts (D2 L1). In addition, Portugal’s victory marked their fifth successive game without defeat against African sides at the World Cup (W4 D1).
– Ghana are winless in their last five matches at the World Cup (D2 L3), while the Black Stars have lost three of their four opening games at the tournament (W1).
– Ghana became the third African side to score in six World Cup matches in succession in the competition, after South Africa (6 between 1998 and 2010) and Nigeria (8 between 1994 and 1998).
Portugal face Uruguay on Monday, while Ghana are up against South Korea the same day in the second round of Group H matches.