Ronaldo hat trick rescues point for Portugal against Spain
Portugal 3-3 Spain
(Ronaldo 4', 44', Ronaldo 88' - Costa 24', 55', Nacho 58')
After all the pre-match hype, Portugal were in dreamland with less than five minutes on the clock. A stepover and burst of pace was all it took for Ronaldo to draw a clumsy challenge out of Real Madrid teammate Nacho Fernandez. Referee Gianluca Rocchi pointed to the spot and Ronaldo duly obliged in breaking the deadlock.
The long periods of possession that followed allowed Spain to find their feet after the early setback as Portugal shifted their focus to keeping tight lines under increasing pressure. La Roja ultimately made it count when Diego Costa bullied and jinked his way to a low finish, leaving three Portuguese defenders trailing in his wake.
With Spain on the front foot, Isco’s stunning drive landed on, not over, the line after crashing off the underside of the crossbar before Andres Iniesta trickled an effort just past the far post. Their hard work was undone on the stroke of half time though, as Ronaldo bagged his brace thanks to a helping hand from David de Gea, who let a largely speculative shot squirm past him.
Read more: Portugal vs. Spain - The anatomy of a thriller
It took just ten minutes of the second half for parity to be restored as Costa latched onto Busquets‘ knockdown to notch his second of the evening. Nacho then completed a quickfire Spanish double shortly before the hour mark, firing a stunning volley in off the post – his first-ever international goal.
However, it was a goal that would ultimately be overshadowed when Ronaldo’s 88th-minute free-kick dipped over the Spanish wall and into the top corner. It may not have been enough to claim all three points in a pulsating encounter, but Ronaldo's masterclass against Spain will go down in World Cup folklore.
As it happened
FULL TIME: It's over. What a shame. Is it hyperbole to say that was one of the best games in World Cup history? It doesn't feel like it. Ronaldo's hat-trick, particularly his third, was stunning - as is his ability to drag his team with him. But so was Nacho's earlier equalizer and Spain's display for much of the game. More of this please. Our full match report will be along any minute.
90+2' - Oof. Quaresma jinks his way in to the box but is denied by a last-ditch challenge. Wow.
90' - We're in to four minutes of injury time. Surely not another late goal today?
88' - HE'S DONE IT! What can you say about Ronaldo? He dips one in to the top corner with whip and dip. Incredible strike. Incredible game.
87' - But now Ronaldo stands over a free kick...
86' - This is an absolute masterclass in how to kill a game from Spain. Portugal cannot get a kick. The 2010 champions make their last chance. Vazquez for the ever-excellent David Silva.
82' - Spain have such incredible control of a football. They've had it for about three minutes straight now.
79' - Ronaldo thinks he's got to a long ball before Patricio but the referee thinks otherwise and Portugal's attack is halted. They've now made their final change, Andre Silva replaces Guedes.
77' - That chance a few minutes ago from Costa will be his last. He's, somewhat surprisingly, removed in favour of Aspas.
76' - Cedric finds Quaresma with a quick throw but the winger's shot on the turn flies harmlessly over.
74' - Portugal looking to get a few more forward here but their attacks don't appear to have much purpose. They seem to be struggling to change from a counter-attacking style to making the play.
71' - Brilliant stuff from Spain. David Silva releases Alba on the overlap who pulls back to Costa. The Atletico striker has space but mishits his shot.
69' - Another change for Portugal , who bring on Quaresma for Bernardo Silva. Spain also make a switch - Thiago replaces Iniesta.
65' - Joao Mario is coming on for Portugal. They need to change their mentality here.
60' - This is quite some game and that was quite some goal. I'd say it's the best of the tournament so far, and there's been a few contenders.
58' GOAL! Redemption for Nacho! The man who gave the penalty away has just scored an absolute screamer. A loose ball sat up nicely for hime and he cut across it, controlled it beautifully and it arrowed past Patricio's right hand. Center back you say?
57' - That goal had more than a whiff of the training ground about it. Do Spain owe that one to Julen Lopetegui? Or has Fernando Hierro got to work very quickly indeed?
55' - GOAL! Diego Costa scores his second. Silva chipped up a fre kick to the back post, Busquets headed back across goal, Costa swept in. Simple as that.
51' - Portugal are sat incrediby deep as Spain work triangles around them. It's already feeling like a pattern is being set.
49' - Fair to say we've had a cagier start to the second half than the first. Bruno Fernades has a harmless pop from distance.
46' - The second half is with us.
HALF TIME: That's it for the first 45 and, so far, this is the game we hoped for and the one that can really get the World Cup started. Ronaldo may have gone down easily for the penalty but it was a ill-adivsed challenge from Nacho. Costa's equalizer was an excellent demonstration of how to play as a lone frontman and then David de Gea had the kind of shocker which he almost never makes. Here's hoping for more of the same in 15 minutes.
44' - GOAL! An absolute howler from one of the best keepers in the world. Ronaldo had gone close to scoring header moments before and struck a low drive from the edge of the box straight at de Gea. The Spain keeper inexplicaby let it slip through his hands. Shocker.
41' - Diego Costa is down rolling around as Pepe chats to the referee. There's some suggestion Costa fouled Pepe in the build up to his goal. But it looked to me like the Portuguese was play acting and Costa was stronger. He's been a terrific focal point for Spain so far as Isco forces Patricio in to another save.
39' - Portugal are begging for the half time whistle here. Busquets is the latest Spaniard to go close, nodding over from a corner.
35' - Andres Iniesta gets a snapshot away that rolls agonizingly wide of the far post.
33' - It's all Spain right now. Portugal are struggling to get out of their own half.
29' - David Silva wastes a great freekick position by hammering in to the wall.
28' - Bruno Fernandes in the book for a late one on Nacho.
26' - Unbelievable. Spain hit the underside of the bar with an absolute rocket from Isco that bounces on the line. Sensational strike.
24' - GOAL! Brilliant equalizer for Spain. Diego Costa picks up a poor Pepe header. He's isolated against a crowd of Portuguese players in the box but feints and fakes until he finds half a yard then drives low with his left in to the bottom corner.
21 - Lovely combination play on the left touchline from Spain and Iniesta bursts in to the box. He picks out David Silva who is just squeezed out.. Then Portugal break rapidly, and brilliantly again and create a 3 v 2. Ronaldo lays it off to Guedes who doesn't have his captain's decisiveness and fails to get a shot away. Huge chance missed for Portugal.
18' - Ronaldo stands over a freekick just outside the box on the right but hits the wall. He's been in the thick of it even more than usual in the early stages.
16' - Isco gets some space again down the left but overhits his cross. Portugal break quickly through Ronaldo and Guedes but the Valencia trickster overruns it. Great start in Sochi.
13' - Spain have reacted well to the concession. Isco dances into the area and wins a corner. Spain go short but it breaks down.
10' - Spain enjoy their first spell of possession of the game and David Silva blazes a Diego Costa knockdown over the bar from about 12 yards. Not the easiest chance but the Manchester City man snatched at it a touch.
5' - At first glance that looked a bit of dive but it was clumsy from Nacho and Ronaldo took full advantage, as he's entitled to do in that situation. A penny for Hierro's thoughts right now.
4' - GOAL! De Gea takes an age to get back to his line but Ronaldo isn't fazed and slams it in to the top right corner. What a start!
3' - PENALTY to Portugal! Ronaldo drives in to the area with a stepover and goes over the out-stretched leg of Nacho.
1' - And we're off!
19:55 - The anthems are being belted out. A huge game for Fernando Hierro, who makes his national team coaching debut in a World Cup, against one of his country's biggest rivals.
19:50 - The players are in the tunnel. Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos embrace as both captain their national teams. Ramos' pleasant behavior is unlikely to last too much longer.
19:45 - Hello, and welcome to the third game today and the fourth of World Cup 2018. After two earlier matches that failed to set the pulses racing until the dying embers, it's time for the highest profile game of the group stage.
Spain's preparations were thrown in to chaos after Julen Lopetegui was sacked just days before the tournament after accepting the Real Madrid job but still boast an exceptional squad - if not an exceptional front man. Portugal have one of those in Cristiano Ronaldo who is aiming to complete his trophy collection with the World Cup. His side, of course, won Euro 2016 while Spain won this competition in 2010. The teams are out and we're not far from kick off.