World Cup 2018: Cristiano Ronaldo continues ‘relentless pursuit of greatness’ in thriller

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“The night was about Cristiano.

He is relentless in his pursuit of greatness.

What he is doing on the world stage is ridiculous.”

Match of the Day pundit Rio Ferdinand said he “couldn’t breathe” as former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, including an 88th-minute equaliser, as Portugal drew 3-3 with Spain in a classic World Cup encounter.

Ronaldo, as he so often does, had the last word in a match full of drama, as Spain came within minutes of securing a happy ending to a turbulent week in which they sacked their manager a day before the start of the tournament.

So just how good was this Ronaldo display? Well, his was the star turn in a match that is sure to be remembered for years to come.

“I’m going to get a flight back tomorrow because I won’t see a better game,” joked former England winger Chris Waddle.

It took just over three minutes for Portugal’s captain to make his mark on the game in Sochi, drawing Nacho into a foul in the area and converting the penalty with trademark cool.

Diego Costa equalized brilliantly but Ronaldo struck a second time, David de Gea’s uncharacteristic fumble into the net a gift to the Real Madrid man.

Costa scored again to make it 2-2 before Nacho made amends with a sublime strike to put Spain 3-2 up.

But then came that free-kick…

Standing over the ball as De Gea set his wall and with just two minutes remaining, there was no doubt it would be Ronaldo who would take the set piece.

And yet history suggested a team-mate – any team-mate – might have been better placed..

This, remarkably, was Ronaldo’s first goal from a direct free-kick in 45 attempts at major championships.

“One or two will ask why I said at half-time Ronaldo needs to work on free-kicks. Well it’s because it took him 45 attempts, but he did it,” said former England captain Alan Shearer.

“It’s a brilliant free-kick and it is technically so difficult to do,” added former England midfielder Danny Murphy.

“He went over and around the wall and it had all sorts of bend and dip on it.”

Speaking on Russia Today, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho offered a reminder that Ronaldo’s free-kick record has worsened since his days at Old Trafford and early years at Real, but added that “this one was the critical one”.

“There are players for some matches, there are players for every match and there are players for special matches.

The players for special matches are the ones,” the Portuguese added.


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