Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal Edge Past Russia at 2017 Confederations Cup

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2017

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between Russia and Portugal, at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Cristiano Ronaldo scored after eight minutes to help Portugal beat host nation Russia 1-0 at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.

Ronaldo and Co. are now top of a congested Group A ahead of Mexico's match against New Zealand on Wednesday night.

Portugal's lineup had a familiar look with Ronaldo leading the line, per the tournament's official Twitter account:

The same source revealed how Aleksandr Golovin was included for Russia, a player linked to Arsenal by's Charles Watts:

Ronaldo put Portugal in front after eight minutes when he headed in at the far post. Squawka Football detailed how effective the prolific No. 7 has been for his nation:

His movement had caused Russia a host of problems early on, with the 32-year-old roaming from flank to flank and ghosting through the middle.

Portugal were finding Ronaldo's runs thank to their dominance of midfield. They were strong centrally, with powerhouse William Carvalho and Adrien Silva tough tacklers and efficient in possession.

Meanwhile, guile and flair were provided by new Manchester City schemer Bernardo Silva.

Portugal stayed on the front foot after the break, with Barcelona midfielder Andre Gomes releasing Bernardo Silva on the break, only for the 22-year-old to fail to find a finish.

One reason Portugal were breaking so effectively was Russia committing more numbers forward, per Jan Hagen of Sport Witness:

They may have been more forward-thinking, but Russia still had goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to thank for keeping the score down. The CSKA Moscow stopper brilliantly denied Andre Silva.

At the other end, Fedor Smolov couldn't connect with a cross as a few chances started to come Russia's way. The hosts turned up the pressure heading into the final 10 minutes, but they struggled to manufacture clear-cut opportunities.

Part of Russia's problem was a stubborn Portugal rearguard led by veteran centre-back Pepe. Hagen lauded the 34-year-old's contribution:

Portugal have the quality and experience along their spine, thanks to Pepe, Silva and Ronaldo, to win this tournament. They are now in control of Group A and will wait on Mexico's result against New Zealand.