Portugal moved to the top of Group B standings after they defeated Morocco 1-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday, courtesy of another Cristiano Ronaldo goal.
Portugal registered their first win of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, when they beat Morocco 1-0 on Wednesday in their second Group B encounter, knocking the North African nation out of the tournament in Russia.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who was coming on the back off a sensational hat-trick against Spain in the Seleccao’s first game, was in the limelight once again as he fired his side ahead just four minutes into the game, with a powerful headed effort.
Morocco dominated the proceedings from there on though and had a number of chances to get back into the game. But they failed to deliver the killer blow in the final third and were often too wasteful with their finishing, which cost them dearly, as they became the first team to be eliminated from the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup.
With the win, Portugal moved to the top of Group B, with 4 points from two games, with their main rivals, Spain, set to take on Iran later in the day. And here we pick out the three players who stood out the most with their performances on the day;
After his stellar display against the Spaniards last week, all eyes were once again on the Portugal captain and in typical fashion, he did not disappoint. It took only four minutes for the 33-year old to make a mark on the game, as he stooped low to get on the end of an inviting Joao Moutinho cross and planted a bullet header into the net.
The Real Madrid superstar saw an effort miss narrowly soon after and also teed up Goncalo Guedes with a lovely ball towards the end of the first period, but the youngster fired straight at the goalkeeper. Ronaldo had a couple more chances post the break but couldn’t display the clinical touch in front of goal, but once again he was the biggest threat that Portugal offered and everything good that they produced, which wasn’t much, came through their captain.
With the goal, Ronaldo sent another record tumbling, as he became Europe’s highest international goalscorer of all time, edging past the legendary Ferenc Puskas’ tally of 84 goals. With 85 strikes from 152 appearances for the Seleccao, the 33-year old is now the second leading international goalscorer, behind Iran legend Ali Daei (109 goals). He also made his way back to the top of the World Cup 2018 goalscoring charts, with four goals from his opening two matches.
The 25-year old Moroccan star was at the centre of everything positive his side conjured up in the attacking third against Portugal on Tuesday and without a doubt, was one of the brightest players on the field.
Ziyech came close to scoring on a number of occasions in either half, but was denied by some solid goalkeeping, while on a few occasions, his finishing wasn’t accurate enough. The Ajax attacking midfielder’s set-piece delivery was on point throughout the game, as his corners and free-kicks into the box always caused a lot of problems to Fernando Santos’ side.
Ziyech had 87 touches on the day – most by any player and also played four key passes during his time on the pitch, which once again was the highest tally by any player in the game, highlighting how involved he was in the final third for the Moroccans. He may have failed to lead his team to a comeback, but will walk out with his head held high after an impressive performance at the Luzhniki.
Having recently sealed a transfer to newly promoted Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, Rui Patricio showed a glimpse of what the fans of the English top flight can expect from him going into the next season.
The 30-year old Portuguese goalkeeper was tested on several times by the North African nation, but was up to the task each time he was called upon, ensuring that his team walked away with all three points in the game. Starting from his early save to keep out Moroccan captain Medhi Benatia’s header, to stopping a driven effort from Ziyech from 20 yards out, Patricio was an assured and composed presence between the posts for the Seleccao.
His standout moment of the game would come in the second period though, as he produced one of the finest saves of the 2018 FIFA World Cup so far. Ziyech’s free-kick was headed towards goal by Younes Belhanda, but the goalkeeper dove at full-stretch to his right, and palmed the ball away from danger, after it had bounced up at him awkwardly. He finished the match with four saves against his name, playing his part in an important win for Portugal.