Portugal survived a late scare against Ghana to begin their World Cup campaign with a 3-2 win, with Cristiano Ronaldo became the first ever player to score at five different World Cup tournaments.
All five goals came in the final half hour, with Ronaldo scoring from the spot, before an Andre Ayew equaliser and quickfire Portugal strikes from Joao Felix and substitute Rafael Leao. Ghana sub Osman Bukari made a game of things late on, while Ghana could even have equalised at the death.
Mohammed Kudus had made the headlines ahead of the game for spiky comments about Neymar he later branded ‘fake news’. But the Ajax talent started poorly and was caught on the ball a couple of times when trying to play too deep.
The second of those saw Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi, usually a back-up until injuries made him number one here, rush out to smother a Ronaldo effort. Not long after, Ronaldo had another glorious chance, this time in the air, but bizarrely didn’t connect properly.
Ronaldo did hit the back of the net half an hour in, only for the play to be pulled back as the 37-year-old had committed a foul when winning the ball.
Ghana had worked hard throughout the first half to keep Portugal at bay at the expense of much attacking inventiveness. But Kudus was always likely to be the best source of something and he showed flashes of his quality with a driving run and low shot that just missed the target.
The Black Stars probably should have seen Alidu Seidu sent off around the hour mark. He was cautioned for a foul on Felix but was then only warned rather than further punished when he aggressively pushed his head against the Portuguese player.
Ghana were incensed not long after when Ronaldo went tumbling in the area as Mohammed Salisu tried to win the ball. But the 37-year-old did get to the ball first ahead of the touch from the defender and then made no mistake as he fired into the top corner from 12 yards.
Kudus had started to threaten more and more, and when he ran beyond the ball into an advanced position, he was able to fire a low cross into the path of Ayew to equalise. The ball squeezed through the legs of Danilo Pereira before the Ghana captain fired in.
But Kudus and Ayew didn’t last much longer on the pitch and the momentum quickly shifted back to Portugal when Bruno Fernandes finally popped up with some meaningful contributions. Two measured through balls, one to the right, one to left, handed Fernando Santos’ team a quick fire double a couple of minutes apart. Felix finished calmly to re-establish the lead at 2-1, before a sublime first-time finish from Leao made it 3-1.
That should have been the game done and dusted for Portugal. But a lapse in defensive concentration from Joao Cancelo allowed Baba Rahman in to cross from the left and Bukari headed in to give Ghana the chance of mounting a late comeback.
Portugal looked like they had done just enough to hold on, but a moment of madness in the final seconds saw goalkeeper Diogo Costa place the ball down without realising that Inaki Williams was hiding behind him. Williams nicked it but then slipped at the crucial moment and the chance went.
GK: Diogo Costa – 3/10 – Made fewer saves than goals conceded and almost gifted Ghana an equaliser in the final seconds with a lack of awareness.
RB: Joao Cancelo – 4/10 – Not the same attacking full-back that Manchester City fans are used to seeing. To blame for Ghana’s second goal.
CB: Ruben Dias – 5/10 – Not his best day considered there was ample opportunity for Portugal to be in cruise control.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 5/10 – Has become used to playing as a centre-back at international level but should have cleared as Ghana scored their first.
LB: Raphael Guerreiro – 5/10 – The more adventurous of the Portuguese full-backs in the first half. Defensively suspect in the second.
CM: Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Saw a lot of the ball without doing a great deal with it to really test Ghana.
CM: Ruben Neves – 6/10 – Shielded the back four and was always an option to keep the ball moving.
CM: Otavio – 5/10 – His final ball into the box was lacking quite a few times. Ended up coming off injured early in the first half.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Too quiet in the first half but improved dramatically after the break. Two inch-perfect assists.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo (c) – 7/10 – Missed early chances he might normally have buried. Had a goal disallowed for a foul but converted from the spot and generally led the line pretty well.
ST: Joao Felix – 7/10 – Radar seemed to be way off in the first half like many of his teammates. Composed finish for his goal.
SUB: William Carvalho (56′ for Otavio) – 7/10
SUB: Rafael Leao (77′ for Neves) – 7/10
SUB: Joao Palhinha (88′ for Silva) – N/A
SUB: Joao Mario (88′ for Felix) – N/A
SUB: Goncalo Guedes (88′ for Ronaldo) – N/A
Manager: Fernando Santos – 7/10 – Things weren’t going that well in the first half, but the changes he made did make a big impact.
GK: Lawrence Ati-Zigi – 6/10 – A strong early save against Ronaldo was an important confidence boost. Beaten by the power of the penalty strike and stood little chance with the others.
CB: Daniel Amartey -7/10 – Defended pretty well on the right of the back three. Always quick to close down, tackle and clear.
CB: Alexander Djiku – 6/10 – Okay in the circumstances.
CB: Mohammed Salisu – 5/10 – As much as he protested, he was a split second too late tackling Ronaldo and conceded the penalty.
RWB: Alidu Seidu – 5/10 – Arguably luck to stay on the pitch when he put his head in on Felix. Subbed off soon after anyway.
CM: Thomas Partey – 6/10 – Showed moments of quality and tried to find incisive passes.
CM: Salis Abdel Samed – 7/10 – Passed accurately and had plenty of energy to recover the ball in midfield.
CM: Mohammed Kudus – 8/10 – Caught on the ball a few times early on. Played better when he was positioned further forward and was easily Ghana’s best source of attacking threat.
LWB: Baba Rahman – 6/10 – Couldn’t sort his feet in time to cut out the through ball that gave Portugal their second goal. But his persistence made Ghana’s late second.
ST: Andre Ayew (c) – 7/10 – Showed a real striker’s instinct to equalise in the six-yard box. Looked less than pleased to come off soon after.
ST: Inaki Williams – 5/10 – Lacked the service he needed.
SUB: Tariq Lamptey (67′ for Seidu) – 6/10
SUB: Jordan Ayew (77′ for Ayew) – 6/10
SUB: Osman Bukari (77′ for Kudus) – 7/10
SUB: Daniel-Kofi Kyerah (90+3 for Djiku) – N/A
SUB: Antoine Semenyo (90+3 for Samed) – N/A
Manager: Otto Addo – 6/10 – It was an odd move to take off both Kudus and Ayew right after Ghana had got back into it. Arguably should have had Kudus further forward from the start.