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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Ronaldo rescues Portugal again

Group B: Portugal 1 Morocco 0

Cristiano Ronaldo heads home Portugal’s winner against Morocco
Cristiano Ronaldo heads home Portugal’s winner against Morocco

A below-par Portugal were again rescued by Cristiano Ronaldo's eye for goal as they stumbled to 1-0 victory over Morocco on Wednesday that meant the unlucky North African side become the first to be eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Ronaldo headed his fourth goal of the tournament after four minutes, following his last-gasp equaliser in a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain.

Morocco, who had a real go at the Luzhniki Stadium but failed to convert their chances, are pointless having also lost 1-0 to Iran and cannot progress to the second round.

Portugal struggled to impose themselves and ended up defending for long spells, leaving coach Fernando Santos unimpressed.

"We have to look at this, we lost control of the game," he said.

"We misplaced a lot of passes, we lost confidence... it was inexplicable. If in a match against players like they have, if you don't have the ball, they wear you down and you get into trouble."

Despite their battling display, Morocco will rue the unforgivable defending that made all their subsequent good work irrelevant - though they claimed a Portuguese foul was at the root of it.

They qualified for the finals without conceding a goal in six matches yet somehow opted against marking the most dangerous attacker at the tournament in the six-yard box when Joao Moutinho swung in a cross from a short corner and Ronaldo duly buried the header.

It was his 85th international goal, taking him beyond Hungarian Ferenc Puskas's European record, with only Iran's Ali Daei ahead of him on 109.

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