Cristiano Ronaldo continued his sensational start to the World Cup with the winner as Portugal knocked Morocco out of the tournament. All eyes at the Luzhniki Stadium were on the Real Madrid star after his hat-trick in Portugal’s opening game with Spain and, typically, he did not disappoint.
It took the captain only four minutes to make his mark in the way Morocco had feared, diving to get on the end of a Joao Moutinho cross and planting an unstoppable header into the net.
Ronaldo’s goal put the European champions briefly top of Group B and extended his lead as the top scorer in Russia in the race for the Golden Boot.
The North African nation, beaten 1-0 by Iran in their opening game, are playing at the World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
Ronaldo again shows why Portugal rely on him
Ronaldo has been the undoubted star of the first week of this tournament and he ensured he will stay in the headlines with another decisive contribution.
He was the centre of attention from the moment his image flashed up on the huge screens, cheered by the Portugal fans and others who had travelled to Moscow solely to watch him – and jeered by the Morocco fans.
The 33-year-old’s performance was not as spectacular as the one he produced about Spain, but he again showed why his team rely upon him so heavily.
Of Portugal’s eight shots, he had six of them – including the one that mattered the most.
Morocco out but not disgraced
Morocco now know they will be heading home after the group stage, but they will not depart in disgrace.
They gave their fervent support plenty to cheer in the Moscow sunshine and, just as in their opening defeat by Iran, can count themselves unlucky to leave left empty-handed.
The talk before the game was whether Herve Renard’s side had a plan to stop Ronaldo and, while the former Cambridge United manager did not manage that, he did find a way to open up the Portugal defence.
Morocco’s defeat means African sides have lost five of their six games at this tournament, with Senegal’s win over Poland the continent’s only success so far.