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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Ronaldo hits form to defeat Russia

Cristiano Ronaldo. Pic: Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo. Pic: Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo headed an early winner as Portugal beat hosts Russia 1-0 in the Confederations Cup to go top of Group A and spoil Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's 100th cap in Moscow.

European champions Portugal took the lead when captain Ronaldo headed a precise cross by Raphael Guerreiro past Akinfeev in the eighth minute and then held on as a re-energised Russia created chances in the second half.

"We have a good, young team with an excellent coach. We weren't European champions by accident," Ronaldo, Portugal's all-time leading scorer, told reporters after taking his international tally to 74 goals.

"Russia are difficult to play against and it's the first time we've beaten Russia here. We deserved to win and the team are to be congratulated." Akinfeev had kept his team in the match early in the second half when he tipped a powerful header by Andre Silva round the post.

Russia squandered two scoring chances in stoppage time, with Georgy Dzhikya's header sailing over the bar while a Fedor Smolov drive floated wide. "The game doesn't always go how we want," Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said.

"We lost the ball fairly often when leaving the defensive zone in the first half, we weren't able to attack, let alone to shoot. We managed to change a few things in the second half, and were able to attack."

The win moved Portugal joint top of the table with four points after they conceded an equaliser in stoppage time to draw their opening match 2-2 against Mexico.

In yesterday evening's other Group A game, Mexico reclaimed top spot after they came from behind to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in Sochi. Chris Wood opened the scoring for New Zealand in the first-half, but second-half strikes from Raul Jiminez and Oribe Peralta proved enough.

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