Cristiano Ronaldo won the battle of the superstars, as his goal gave Portugal a 1-0 win over Sweden in the first leg of their 2014 World Cup play-off in Lisbon.
The match had been billed as Ronaldo vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward failed to deliver.
However, his Swedish team-mates looked to have done enough to take a 0-0 draw before the Real Madrid star claimed the only goal of the first leg in the 82nd minute.
A low cross from Miguel Veloso into the 6-yard area saw Ronaldo stoop low to head home and give Portugal a narrow advantage heading into the second leg on Tuesday.
Portugal kicked off the first half looking for their first win over Sweden on home soil and almost scored in the fifth minute.
A first-time pass from Raul Meireles found Moutinho inside the area. The forward was forced wide by Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and shot the ball into the side netting.
Just a minute later, the visitors almost stunned the home crowd when Mikael Lustig drove down the right flank before sending a dangerous cross into the area. Johan Elmander was stretching too far to make a full connection, though, and the ball slipped wide of the post.
Ronaldo’s sole early contribution was a 25-yard free-kick straight into the Sweden wall, while Ibrahimovic had produced even less.
The PSG striker then stepped over a 20th-minute ball on the edge of the Portuguese box, allowing Sebastian Larsson to sting the hands of Rui Patricio with a fierce drive.
Kim Kallstrom then struck a free-kick inches wide of the Portugal goal when the crowd was expecting Ibrahimovic to take the set piece.
Ronaldo was almost set clear on goal by another fine pass from Meireles, but the ball just escaped the Real Madrid star.
In the 37th minute, Veloso hacked down Ibrahimovic and was fortunate to escape a yellow card from the referee.
Portugal were becoming very frustrated toward the end of the first period, and Joao Pereira earned the first caution of the game for a foul on Alexander Kacaniklic three minutes before half-time.
Five minutes after the break, Portugal were almost gifted the lead when Isaksson and his defence failed to gain control of the ball inside the area. The danger was eventually cleared, however, as Helder Postiga failed to get a clear-cut chance on goal.
Postiga was again the threat in the 63rd minute when he connected with a corner but could not turn the ball past Isaksson from an acute angle.
Postiga was withdrawn two minutes later for Hugo Almeida, as Portugal looked for a more physical presence up front.
Larsson was cautioned harshly in the 70th minute for a foul on Coentrao at the by-line before Sweden switched Rasmus Elm for Pontus Wernbloom.
With 15 minutes remaining, Ronaldo finally found some space inside the area, but the Real man was well offside when he collected Meireles’ shot.
Ronaldo then picked up a yellow card for tripping Isaksson, but the former Manchester United player appeared to have been harshly treated. Elmander also received a caution for his words about the incident.
But the Real star could have been dismissed after he was caught on camera moving his head toward Sweden defender Lustig.
Lustig did not go to ground after the incident but did put a hand to his face, to which Ronaldo indicated that he thought the defender was play-acting.
Sweden replaced Kallstrom with Anders Svensson, as they attempted to batten down the hatches and ensure a 0-0 draw to take into the second leg.
Elmander made the most of a Pereira challenge on him inside the Portugal area and the match official appeared to show leniency by not giving him a second yellow for diving.
Then, with eight minutes left, Ronaldo broke the deadlock. Veloso found space on the left flank to cross low into the 6-yard area. The Real Madrid star stooped to get ahead of his marker and gave Portugal the lead.
Ronaldo should have added a second in the 85th minute, but headed against the crossbar from an Almeida cross.
But it was still Ronaldo who edged the battle of the superstars, with Ibrahimovic offering very little for Sweden throughout the first leg.
Cristiano Ronaldo: A
The Real Madrid star could not get a hold on the game in the first period but was always willing to run in a bid to open up an opportunity.
Ronaldo came up trumps in the closing stages when he grabbed the opener before heading against the crossbar in the 85th minute.
He had this to say after the match, per the Associated Press (via SI.com): "We've got the minimum advantage, but it's better than a draw. It would be better if our lead was bigger. We have a big battle in Sweden next week."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: B-
Apart from a clever ploy of allowing the ball to run for Sebastian Larsson to strike from the edge of the area, the Paris Saint-Germain striker barely featured in the opening half.
Ibrahimovic seemed disinterested at times and endured a disappointing night for Sweden.
Raul Meireles: A
Meireles was always looking for the chance to open up Sweden and almost succeeded with several balls to Ronaldo and Postiga.
Johan Elmander: A-
The Norwich City striker was the main threat for Sweden in the first half and was always a willing runner in the search for chances on the counter-attack.
Elmander sweated buckets for Sweden alongside his surlier strike partner, but he almost ruined a fine display with a second yellow card for diving.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!