It was all looking rather good for Hungary. The Magyars, who held Portugal to gripping 3-3 draw five years ago, looked to be doing something similar in their Euro 2020 opener. Just without the goals.
But Portugal, inspired by a hint of fortune, exploded into life and Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage to show the doubters just how decisive he can be.
Fernando Santos’ men sealed a 3-0 win with all of their goals coming from the 84th minute onwards, becoming the first side in European Championship history to net three times in the final 10 minutes of a game.
Raphael Guerreiro got things started, his effort taking a massive deflection of Willi Orban to finally end the resistance of Hungary, who themselves had a goal disallowed for offside only a few minutes earlier, and then Ronaldo took over.
With lively substitute Rafa Silva sent tumbling in the box by Orban, whose evening quickly descended into farce, Ronaldo stepped up to smashed the penalty beyond Peter Gulacsi in the Hungary goal.
He then rounded off a brilliant passing move with some outrageous play before tucking in Portugal’s third – but that was just the tip of the iceberg on what was a momentous night for the Selecao’s greatest ever player.
From frustration to flawless
Ronaldo flapped his arms around in dismay. Yes, you can picture it – you’ve seen it countless times before.
The game was just five minutes old when the Juventus superstar was screaming at Diogo Jota, who had opted for a 20-yard shot instead of slipping Ronaldo – in masses of space to his left – into the penalty area.
Given Ronaldo almost doubled up as Fernando Santos’ assistant after being injured in the 2016 final, you had to wonder whether he would demand Jota be withdrawn immediately.
As it was, Jota stayed on and his presence again seemed a distraction just before half-time when he dangled a leg near Bruno Fernandes’ smashed delivery, with Ronaldo only able to hammer over from a few yards out.
He didn’t have another shot until the 87th minute – that’s how quiet he was generally kept by Hungary’s defence – but that next effort proved a historic one. As Ronaldo confidently drove his penalty past Gulacsi, he surpassed Michel Platini as the all-time leading scorer in the European Championship with 10 goals.
While the Frenchman got all nine of his in one tournament, Euro ’84, and in just five games, Ronaldo has needed a little longer – this was his 22nd appearance.
But if reaching such a milestone with a penalty (we see you, users of the ‘Penaldo’ nickname…) wasn’t going to be satisfying enough, he duly extended his new record with a lovely goal.
Ronaldo exchanged a glorious one-two with Rafa Silva, skilfully rounded Gulacsi and then tapped home – it was the kind of goal that could draw a hearty chuckle from anyone, so good was the build-up and subsequent composure from the veteran forward.
All 11 of his Euros goals have been from inside the box, though the record-breaker was actually his first successful penalty. His brace here means he now has four goals in the final 15 minutes of games, more than in any other period of matches.
His second goal also took a record from Andriy Shevchenko, as it made Ronaldo the oldest player to score twice in a Euros match.
More records on the way?
Don’t expect this to be the last we hear from Ronaldo at this tournament.
More historic achievements and records are just a matter of a few goals away, and given his ruthless impact at the end on Tuesday, few would bet against him picking up where he left off next time.
Granted, Germany and France should prove sterner opposition than Hungary, but a player close to such records can be fancied to deliver the good against anyone.
His next landmark in sight is Miroslav Klose’s haul of 19 in the World Cup and Euros – no European player has netted more at those tournaments, and Ronaldo is now just one behind him thanks to this brace.
But more importantly than that is Ali Daei’s world record international haul of 109.
With two here, Ronaldo is now just three behind the former Iran striker, whose record looked insurmountable after his retirement in 2006.
It’s only really been since he turned 30 that Ronaldo has looked likely to reach or surpass Daei. After all, his record since the start of 2016 for Portugal is 51 goals in 53 matches.
Perhaps we should have learned our lesson from watching Ronaldo over the years, however.. No goalscoring milestone is beyond him, it seems.
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