Cristiano Ronaldo scored on his return to action following his Manchester United exit earlier this week.
The attacker left the Red Devils by mutual consent after his explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticised the club’s owners, players and manager. The interview in many ways overshadowed his and Portugal’s build-up to the 2022 World Cup, which began on Thursday with a 3-2 win against Ghana.
And it was Ronaldo who netted the first goal of the game just after the hour mark. The 37-year-old earned a soft penalty following a reckless challenge from Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu inside the box. Ronaldo converted the subsequent spot-kick, becoming the first player to ever score at five World Cups.
Andrew Ayew did equalise soon after for Ghana, but a quick response from the 2016 European champions saw them net twice via Joao Felix and Rafael Leao and ensured Portugal ultimately took all three points, although Osman Bukari did score from a header in the 89th minute to set up a nervy finish.
Inaki Williams also nearly netted in the final seconds of injury-time as Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa rolled the ball out, unaware the Athletic Bilbao forward was behind him. Yet a slip from Williams prevented him scoring a dramatic equaliser.
As for Ronaldo, who will have once again felt the eyes of the world on him ahead of kick-off, he will be pleased to have put in a good performance. He linked the play well and produced several chances other than the goal. The former Real Madrid and Juventus star was unfortunate to see a goal on 31 minutes disallowed for the slightest of nudges on Ghana defender Alexander Djiku, before he placed the ball into the back of the net.
The Portugal No.7 also saw a first-half shot smothered by goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi, while Ronaldo should have done better when he rose highest in the box but failed to connect with Raphael Guerreiro’s cross. The attacker did see another chance flagged offside in the second period, although the shot was saved by Ati-Zigi. Ronaldo was then replaced in the 88th minute and is expected to start in Portugal’s next game.
Which Man Utd players were involved?
United’s Bruno Fernandes played in a wide right position for Portugal at Stadium 974, although it was a fluid role that saw the midfielder pop up all over the pitch. He repeatedly looked to create chances with penetrative passes behind the back four and provided the assists for Portugal’s second and third goals. Meanwhile, Diogo Dalot was an unused substitute.
Manchester City trio Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva all started in the match, with mixed results. Dias was perhaps the best defender on an evening when Portugal’s backline looked porous, while Cancelo was far below his best and failed to create many chances. As for Silva, he had a solid yet unspectacular game, but provided plenty of energy in the middle.
Who do Portugal and Ghana play next?
The Ghanians face South Korea on Monday, with Portugal meeting Uruguay a few hours later. South Korea and Uruguay played out a goalless draw on Thursday, meaning F Santos’ men are top of Group H by three points.