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Ronaldo fires Portugal to 1-0 victory over Morocco | Coastweek

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Cristiano Ronaldo [left] of Portugal tussles over the ball with Mehdi Benatia [right] of Morocco during a Group B match between Portugal and Morocco at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2018. Portugal won 1-0. XINHUA PHOTO -XU ZIJIAN

Ronaldo fires Portugal to 1-0 victory over Morocco

By sportswriter Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Cristiano Ronaldo became Europe’s all-time leading scorer as Portugal beat Morocco 1-0 in their World Cup Group B match here.

Ronaldo sent Portugal ahead in the fourth minute by outmuscling his marker and firing in a bullet header after a Joao Moutinho corner at Luzhniki Stadium.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid star has now scored 85 international goals, surpassing the mark held by Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas.

His strike here followed a hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening World Cup match on Friday.

This result  all but eliminates Morocco from the tournament while Portugal are almost guaranteed of a berth in the knockout stage, even before their last group fixture against Iran on Monday.

It was not a vintage performance from Portugal as the reigning European champions seemed content to allow Morocco to control possession while creating few chances on the counterattack.

Fortunately for Fernando Santos’s men, the African side’s lack of quality in the final third proved telling as a number of chances went begging.

Ronaldo’s strike gave his team the perfect start and the Portugal captain nearly made it 2-0 minutes later by rolling the ball back under his foot, turning and shooting just wide of the left post.

Despite trailing, Morocco looked the better team for large parts of the first half as they dictated possession but struggled to find a cutting edge in attack.

Younes Belhanda, Noureddine Amrabat and Karim El Ahmadi orchestrated play through the middle but their teammates were guilty of spurning a number of gilt-edged chances.

Khalid Boutaib directed a header straight at goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Mbark Boussoufa just failed to reach a Nabil Dirar cross before being crowded out by Portugal’s defence.

Morocco’s best chance of the first half arguably came in stoppage time when Belhanda’s flick-on from a set piece almost allowed Benatia to head in at the far post.

Herve Renard’s side continued to hold the initiative after the break. Belhanda shot straight at Patricio after being fed by Amrabat on the left and Belhanda’s towering header from a free-kick then forced a superb diving save from Patricio.

Santos replaced Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva with Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins on the hour mark in a bid to capitailze on open spaces left by Morocco’s high defensive line.

But chances continued to fall for Morocco. Benatia twice blazed over after deftly controlling set pieces that were floated into the area and Hakim Ziyach saw his attempt from close range sail over after being partially blocked.



Portugal “blessed” to have Ronaldo, says Fonte

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Portugal felt “blessed” to have Cristiano Ronaldo, said center back Jose Fonte following the European champions’ victory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup here on Wednesday.

The 1-0 win against Morocco provisionally moved Portugal atop Group B with four points, prior to the duel between Spain and Iran later on Wednesday.

“We showed togetherness and kept dealing with crossings, clearances and headers. It felt good to have a clean sheet. (Rui) Patricio did a couple of good saves.

“In the second half we should have had more control on the ball. We were a little bit disappointed about that, but we got the win. We should be happy about that,” said Fonte, who plays for Chinese Super League outfit Dalian Yifang.

Fonte, who finished a match-leading 10 clearances, said, “We defenders try our best to keep the goal and not let our opponents score. If we have the possibility of scoring, we will try our best to do it.”

Ronaldo has netted four times in two matches after scoring a hat-trick against Spain, becoming the second Portuguese player to have scored at least four goals at a single World Cup, following the footsteps of Eusebio in 1966.

“Nothing more,” Fonte said when asked if Ronaldo had done something special. “He’s always the best player in the world. We can expect that he is going to show more.”

“It’s the same thing that he does in every match. He gives us confidence that we can win every match.

“We have to enjoy his performance. He is relentless. He is a very hard-working player, and always trains everything. He takes care of his body, and he is always ready.

“He is a great leader, and a good example for everyone. We are just blessed to have him,” Fonte added.

Portugal will put on their final group match against Iran.


Ronaldo not thinking about World Cup knockout stage

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Cristiano Ronaldo said Wednesday that Portugal are not thinking beyond the next match against Iran despite all but securing their passage to the World Cup knockout stage.

The Real Madrid forward was named man of the match after scoring with an early header in Portugal’s 1-0 victory over Morocco here.

The strike made Ronaldo Europe’s all-time leading scorer in international matches with 85 goals, surpassing the previous mark held by Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas.

“I’m very happy. The most important thing was to win the game and get the three points,” Ronaldo said in a brief news conference after the match.

The result left Portugal with four points from two matches, following their 3-3 draw against Spain on Friday. The European champions would need an unlikely sequence of results to miss a berth in the knockout stage and can finish top of their group with a convincing victory over Iran on Monday.

“The expectation is to continue our work to try to improve in the group phase,” the former Manchester United player said. “We’re almost there but we’ll see. Our goal is to look at it match by match. We have to think that way to qualify.”

Despite falling behind in the fourth minute, Morocco dominated large periods of the match and had 16 shots on goal compared to Portugal’s 10.

“We knew that Morocco would be trying very hard. They created many chances but we managed to get the victory and that is what matters most,” Ronaldo added.


The European champions went ahead through an early Cristiano Ronaldo header

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Portugal coach Fernando Santos admitted his side might need tactical changes after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Morocco in their World Cup Group B fixture here on Wednesday.

The European champions went ahead through an early Cristiano Ronaldo header but the team struggled to create chances thereafter as Morocco dominated possession and had six more shots on goal.

“We started well and we put the pressure on them,” Santos told a news conference after the match. “We had some of the ball but it was a difficult game. Just like against Spain, we weren’t able to hold on to the ball, but we have to deal with that. We ran out of lungs. We might have to make some tweaks in the strategy.

“I think Portugal played a great game. Morocco also put in a good performance. They challenged us. For Morocco it’s maybe an unfair result. But that’s football. If you score more you win.”

Portugal started in a 4-4-2 formation, with Goncalo Guedes alongside Ronaldo in attack. But Santos was forced to switch to 4-5-1 in the second half in a bid to quell Morocco’s midfielder dominance.

The move had little impact and left Ronaldo isolated in the final third.

“We needed to move players into the middle of the pitch to win back possession,” Santos said. “Ronaldo was playing in a position that is not best for him. In some aspects this was similar to the Spain match. We started to push higher after 15 minutes. The dynamics were slow. We have to improve in that area. We were good defensively, but we need to do better. We know that we have to change and get more possession of the ball.”

The result leaves Portugal with four points from two matches, following their 3-3 draw with Spain on Friday. The Iberians might already have done enough to advance to the knockout stage and can finish top of their group with a convincing victory over Iran on Monday.

“We have four points which is good,” Santos said. “But nothing is decided yet. Morocco probably has few chances [of progressing]. But the other teams have possibilities. We really have to play well against Iran and then we’ll see what happens.”

Santos rejected suggestions that Pepe committed a foul moments before Ronaldo’s goal and said the center-back was himself infringed upon.

“The [Morocco] player pushed Pepe and all he did was defend himself against that,” Santos said. “The first foul was by the Moroccan player. There was no refereeing mistake. If anything there should have been a penalty.”


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