WC 2018: Group A clash – June 15, 2018 Portugal v Spain Match Report
PORTUGAL 3, SPAIN 3
The Portugal-Spain clash lived up to its billing as “The Match” of the Group stages. The 2010 World Champions were stunned in the 3rd minute by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, but didn't take time to recover as Diego Costa pulled one back in the 24th minute. While Nacho's needless foul at the edge of the box on Ronaldo cost Spain their first goal, David de Gea’s inexplicable gaffe just a minute before half-time gave Portugal and Ronaldo their second goal and a 2-1 lead.
Manchester United's De Gea, probably the best goal-keeper in action in the 2017-18 Premier League season,made an uncharacteristic error, fumbling at a straightforward grasser directed towards him and letting the ball roll through his gloves over the line.
A Spain team stung by the sacking of their coach, Julen Lopetegui, just days before the World Cup kick-off, showed no signs of nerves, recovering from the early goal very fast and dominating proceedings in the first half. The Dea Gea blunder was thus against the run of play and negated La Roja's advantage going into half-time.
In fact, they took absolute control of the game after the interval despite being a goal down. The Sapniards played beautiful, intricate football resulting in the equaliser by Diego Costa from a Sergio Busquets lob into the box in the 54th minute.
La Roja threatened to go ahead immediately after that when a stinging 20-yarder from Isco hit the cross-bar and bounced off from the goal-line. But go ahead, they did. Nacho made up for his early defensive lapse by smashing in a volley from outside the box that hit the 2nd post and the ball careened in.
Spain seemed to have the game wrapped up but for a free kick awarded to Portugal thanks to a Busquets foul on Ronaldo yards away from the box. The Portuguese talisman completed the 51st hat-trick of his career by bending one in around the Spanish defensive line and making it 3-3 in the 88th minute.
It was the great man against Spain as one of the most memorable matches in World Cup history came to an end. Despite the turmoils surrounding the La Roja, folks like Ramos, Alba, Iniesta and Silva produced the kind of football that made Spain a dominant force in the 2008 -2012 period.
Take away Ronaldo's genius and De Gea's 4th minute gaffe, Spain emerged the much better side from the great duel. They had 67 per cent of the ball possession, made 13 attempts on the goal compared to Portugal's nine and took 6 shots on target versus their rival's three (astonishing all turned out to be goals).
With matches against Morocco and Iran coming up next, La Roja can look forward to topping the Group B and moving into the 2nd round. Portugal face the same opponents as Spain but chances are that they could come next best on points in the cluster before they too gain entry into the next round.