In the third game of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, it was the clash of the Titans, Portugal vs Spain. The two European Giants were playing their first game in Group B.
A lot was talked about Spain's management and everything about it, but Spain shut those talk with a scintillating performance by the FIFA World Cup 2010 Champions only to be left awe-stricken by a fabulous Cristiano Ronaldo.
He started of things by being fouled in the second minute of the game as he advanced to take a shooting position by his Real Madrid teammate Nacho. He readily put it away to take lead for Portugal. With this goal, he became the first player to score in eight consecutive international tournaments. Another record was broken by the Portuguese all-time top scorer.
David Silva in hopes getting his team back track skied an effort after Diego Costa knocked the ball down for him.
Spain appeared jittered by the first goal. What was thought to be a cagey affair became an end-to-end contest. Cristiano Ronaldo played the first 15 minutes of the game quite deep. Quite uncharacteristic to his style of play, and maybe this tactical tweak wasn't anticipated by the Spanish midfield who were getting outnumbered
Portugal was absolutely rampant in their counterattacks. Ronaldo launched another one in the 21st minute after a Spain corner. He squared it to his teammate who mis-controlled and the chance went begging.
But in the 23rd minute, Diego Costa showed why he's their star striker. He controlled the ball to jink left and then jink right before burying it past Rui Patricio.
Breathtaking scenes were taking place. Isco volley the.ball so sweetly it hit the underside of the bar completely bamboozling Patricio. Spain was fighting and showing why they have the championship mentality. With Costa's goal the momentum.had well and truly shifted
Tempers were flaring and so were the yellow cards. The referee understanding the intensity of the game was keeping a keen eye on things
Portugal was just surviving this game. In the 33rd minute, Isco squared it to Andres Iniesta who's effort went just inches wide with the keeper probably getting his fingertips on it. Not the way coach Fernando Santos would've wanted his team to defend.
In the 43rd minute, Portugal score via Ronaldo one more time. The shot was directly at David de Gea, who is revered as the best goalkeeper in the world, made an error and the ball deflected in the back of the net. An enthralling first to say the least.
Spain would have been disappointed at half-time. After controlling the game they were somehow down on the scoreline and Fernando Hierro had to rally his troops to fight again.
The second half started slow. Spain seemed calm and composed. They waited for the right time to make incisive decisions.
Joao Moutinho fouled Iniesta outside the box. David Silva clipped in the ball for Sergio Busquets to head it across the goal. It was Diego Costa who got at the end of it to score his second goal of the game as well. The scorers were leveled one more time.
Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to be frustrated by this persistence of Spain.
Isco who was touted as the man for Spain once again showed why he's indispensable. He went past Portugal's defence to lay off the ball to Nacho who belted the ball from outside the box. A sensational goal by the right-back who not only scored his first international goal but redeemed the penalty he gave to his opponents and Spain finally took the lead in the 58th minute.
The majority of the second half was spent with both teams trying their best to one-up the other.
Fernando Santos sent on Andre Silva as a last-ditch effort for a goal.
It, however, came in the shape of his captain Cristiano Ronaldo who scored his 52nd career hat trick, to put an exclamation point in this tie in the 88th minute. A sensational free-kick that left the entire stadium stranded and Portugal were rescued. He has made a statement that he and his team has come to this tournament with an intent of taking the trophy back home.
With the final scoreline of Portugal vs Spain 3-3 and Iran winning against Morocco earlier, all is to play for in Group B.