Record-breaking Cristiano Ronaldo is spot on as Portugal edge past Ghana at World Cup

Veteran attacker becomes first man to score in five finals to help team win 3-2 in Qatar

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After slotting the penalty which broke the deadlock and sparked the game into life, he might have been forgiven for acting like he had just found the last Coca-Cola in the desert.

It was all about him. When is it ever not? And yet, after achieving something unique, making history, and apparently paving the way to victory against a stubborn opposition, he was one of the boys again.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 65th minute strike set Portugal on the way to a 3-2 win over Ghana at the World Cup in Doha. He had won the spot-kick himself, after he was felled – if slightly tamely - by Mohammed Salisu.

His celebration did bear most of the trademarks. He ran to the corner, leapt high in the air, and was ready to unleash his arms at his side.

And yet there was no “siuu”. Not from him, at least, even if the majority of the crowd in the Stadium 974 bellowed exactly that. Instead, he cracked a smile, and looked straight for his mates.

They were already there surrounding him, the substitutes massed by the corner flag, ready to mob the first man to score in five World Cups.

Still, there was a job to do. Initially, they made heavy weather of it, passing up an equaliser five minutes later to Andre Ayew, Ronaldo’s opposite number as Ghana captain.

For all their endeavour, though, Ghana are the lowest ranked side in the tournament for a reason, and the Portuguese just about managed to bring their class to bear.

First, Joao Felix reasserted their advantage with a clever lifted finish. Then Rafael Leao gave them a two-goal buffer two minutes later.

Ghana refused to bow, and Osman Bukari set Portuguese nerves racing when he dragged a goal back with a minute remaining in normal time.

Ronaldo, who had just had his own personal curtain call after being substituted, was livid that the door had been left ajar for the Ghanaians. By the end, though, he could be satisfied with a job just about well done.

Even if he was not on the field when victory was finally sealed, it had been Ronaldo’s occasion.

The crowd were gripped by anticipation whenever he went near the ball. The first time he did, 90 seconds in, it was greeted by a cacophonous roar. Not that it was anything to celebrate: he miss-controlled, then made a foul.

In the 10th minute, he was lax again. He found space in the heart of the Ghana defence, but his first touch got away from him and permitted goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi to stub out the threat.

Shortly after, he erred for a third time. Admittedly, few other players in the game would have been able to soar in the fashion he did at the far post to meet a high cross. Once there, though, he failed to get any significant purchase on the header, and the ball drifted harmlessly wide.

Just after the half-hour mark, he did have the ball in Ati-Zigi’s goal, but it had already been ruled out as he was adjudged to have fouled Alexander Djiku, the Ghana defender.

The sense that nothing was going quite right for the fixture’s dominant figure was summed up just before half-time when he got in the way of his teammate Raphael Guerreiro’s volleyed shot from the left. The ball became tangled in Ronaldo’s legs, and his effort to move in on was uncharacteristically ungainly.

With his first chance after the break, he was easily marshalled again by Ghana’s defence. As they broke away, the African side enjoyed their brightest moment of the game till that point, as Mohammed Kudus flashed a shot from distance just wide.

The game was getting increasingly feisty. Alidu Seidu was lucky to escape a red card after going head to head with Felix.

All that occurred before goal had even been scored. Then Ronaldo addressed that issue by opening the floodgates. Within 25 minutes at the end of the game, five flew in.

What mattered to Ronaldo and Portugal in the final count up, though, was that the three points were theirs.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 6:15 PM