Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first, and last, goal of the 2014 World Cup as Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 in Brasilia on Thursday.
The win was not enough to take Portugal through, as they paid the price for being thumped 4-0 by Germany in their opening game of the tournament. But they did avoid the wooden spoon in Group G, which went to Ghana following an abject effort.
Portugal knew they needed goals to stand any chance of progressing and they made a sharp start to the contest at the Estadio Nacional.
Ronaldo has been carrying a knee problem which has restricted his impact in the tournament, but he made a fine start against Ghana.
On five minutes, the world player of the year went within a matter of inches of throwing down a goal-of-the-tournament contender.
Out wide on the right, Ronaldo had a quick look and spotted Ghana 'keeper Fatau Dauda off his line and went for an audacious chip. The effort beat Dauda but thudded against the crossbar.
In the 11th minute, Ronaldo stepped up to strike a free-kick and his effort forced a fine save out of Dauda.
The Ghana 'keeper thwarted Ronaldo for a third time in the 19th minute. The Real Madrid man—sporting a sharp, new haircut—climbed high to meet a cross and powered an effort on target. The crowd were waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net, but Dauda beat the ball away.
Cristiano has started this game like a magnificently coiffured rampaging bull. Vamos Cris!— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) June 26, 2014
Ghana came into the match dogged by troubles, notably a wrangle over money and the axing from the squad, confirmed by The Telegraph, of Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng.
The money issue was seemingly resolved when the country’s government flew in cash to Brazil, confirmed by BBC Sport, much to John Boye's delight:
Boye, though, hardly justified his bonus payment when he sliced a cross from Miguel Veloso into his own net on 31 minutes to hand Portugal the lead.
A particularly ill-timed blunder for Boye considering the photo that emerged of him kissing a fistful of dollars earlier in the day...— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) June 26, 2014
Ghana carried an attacking threat, with Andre Ayew forcing a save out of Beto, and Christian Atsu and Gyan fashioning shooting chances but failing to hit the target.
Ghana grabbed a lifeline on 57 minutes through their all-time leading scorer Asamoah Gyan.
It was a simple finish from the forward, nodding home from six yards, but that does not do justice to the goal as a simply stunning cross with the outside of his right boot from Kwadwo Asamoah created the chance in stunning style.
Akwasi Appiah's Ghana knew only a win would hand them any chance of progressing, and they should have taken the lead on 61 minutes.
A cross from Gyan picked out Majeed Waris in acres of space six yards from goal. It looked harder to miss than score, but that is what Waris did as he somehow planted his header wide of the post.
Ghana kept probing for a second goal, but the real chance came and went when Waris failed to convert, and they were undone when Ronaldo netted 10 minutes from time.
Terrible goalkeeping from Dauda, who flapped at a high ball he should have caught, presented the ball at the feet of Ronaldo and he needed no second invitation as he slammed home.
The goal secured the three points for Portugal, but the lack of celebration from Ronaldo spoke volumes.
The focus will now be on Euro 2016 qualification for Portugal. For Ronaldo, he is likely to take plenty of time off to remedy the knee complaint ahead of next season's La Liga and Champions League challenge with Real Madrid.
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Post Match Reaction
Ronaldo was named Man of the Match, which was of little comfort as he felt his side created enough chances to have qualified, per Fifa.com.
We tried to do our best at this tournament, but we weren’t able to. Today was a must-win game and we won it. We created a lot of chances. We knew that if Germany were to win by a goal [versus USA] we needed to score four, and we created enough to have done that.
The feeling we’re left with is that it could have been done, because we created enough chances. We leave here with our heads held high.