An early Cristiano Ronaldo header was enough to see Portugal beat Morocco 1-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Ronaldo led out his Portugal side which had one change to their 1-1 draw with Spain, Joao Mario came in place of Bruno Fernandes. Facing the mammoth task of stopping CR7, Morocco made three changes from their late heart-breaking 1-0 defeat to Iran.
A defeat against Portugal would knock Morocco out and with that, the African side made a bright start to the game but it was Portugal who struck first inside four minutes. A short corner to Joao Moutinho gave the midfielder a lot of time and space to deliver a decent ball into the danger area which lit up Ronaldo’s eyes and once again, the predator pounced and headed powerfully into the back of the net from eight yards.
Portugal were 1-0 up but Morocco continued their excellent start to the game and had a golden opportunity to equalise when a corner was floated in from the right where skipper Mehdi Benatia found himself in space and headed towards the bottom corner but Rui Patricio was down well to save.
Morocco’s high pressure was causing Portugal problems and Hakim Ziyech’s technical brilliance put himself into space as he fired a 25-yard strike which Patricio was right behind to stop.
Nordin Amrabat, nursing a concussion injury from last match, was excellent down the right wing, his pace and power was no match for Raphael Guerreiro’s poor positioning and defending. But the first half came to a close with Portugal lucky to still be ahead.
The European Champions came out better in the second half when Mario was released in the penalty box and turned back to find Bernardo Silva on the edge of the box who scuffed his shot and fell to Ronaldo who, with the goal at his mercy, smashed wildly over the bar.
Minutes later, at the other end, Younes Belhanda wriggled into space on the edge of the area and fired goal wards but Patricio was again equal to the effort.
Belhanda came close again shortly after, when a Ziyech in swinging free kick was met by the playmaker’s head. The number 10 headed down but Patricio pulled off a simply stunning acrobatic save down to his right to keep out Morocco once again.
Morocco kept pushing for an equaliser, Ziyech came close with a left-footed free-kick which was just watched over by Patricio in the 67th minute.
Benatia had a late chance when the ball fell to the Juventus player in the penalty box, he stabbed his left foot at the ball but slashed his effort horribly wide.
In the end, an 85th international goal from Ronaldo was enough for Portugal as they held out for their first three points of the World Cup.
Portugal now have four points and sit top of Group B with Iran next up to confirm a place in the knockout stages, whereas Morocco with zero points are out at the group stage.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo win the golden boot at the World Cup this year? Let us know by commenting below, or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ with the hashtag #AOF