The first heavyweight clash of the 2018 FIFA World Cup which featured one of the greatest players in the world facing off against one its best teams ended in a glorious 3-3 stalemate.
Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliant goal from a free-kick 25 yards out in the 88th minute delivered Portugal a share of the points and gave the megastar a hat-trick on the afternoon, matching his goal total from his three previous World Cups in just one night.
Take a bow, Cristiano Ronaldo. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/pJwSByuz5y— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
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It eliminated Spain's valiant comeback, the Red Fury were down by a goal on two separate occasions created by the Portuguese legend. It was Spain's Nacho who went from villain to hero with a screamer of a second-half goal to put his side in front for good in the 58th minute:
UNBELIEVABLE STRIKE FROM NACHO! 😱— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
The defender makes up for his early mistake with a beauty to put Spain ahead 3-2. pic.twitter.com/r6Zokn9mQ5
The defender experienced the full gamut of accountability on the largest stage in soccer, conceding a penalty before assisting on striker Diego Costa and Spain's second goal and providing the wonderous third.
It was just enough to get by Ronaldo, the Real Madrid star recording a brace against the country in which his club team resides and where former Spain manager Julen Lopetegui now coaches.
Fernando Hierro had been Spain's manager for no more than 52 hours after the firing of Lopetegui a day before the start of the tournament and was immediately behind as the 2010 winners got off to a dreadful start.
It didn't take long for Ronaldo to make an impact as he was taken down by Nacho in the box and awarded a penalty that he coolly converted to give Portugal an early advantage.
The goal made Ronaldo one of just four players to score in four different World Cups, joining Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler.
The advantage didn't last long, though. Diego Costa singlehandedly took on the Spanish defense, taking down a long ball from just outside the Portugal box, disposed of Pepe in what could have been a foul and created enough space to get a shot off with his right foot to tie things up in the 24th minute:
Diego Costa does it himself to pull Spain level! pic.twitter.com/bqVV4hAIJ5— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
Moments later, Isco almost put Spain up with a thunderous strike from 20 yards out, but it came off the crossbar and bounced off the goal line before an onrushing Jordi Alba was ruled offside on a rebound attempt.
The near miss was felt even more in the 44th minute after Ronaldo picked up his second, which was contributed to what can only be described as a howler from Spain keeper David De Gea, who let the low shot by the talisman slip through his fingers:
David de Gea is going to want that one back 🙈 pic.twitter.com/hqjFQtWbOJ— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
Once again, Costa bailed Spain out in the 55th minute off a free kick delivered into the box by David Silva. The Manchester City man's ball went to the right post and was headed back across goal by Nacho where it was delivered home by the striker to match Ronaldo's output on the night:
Another one for Diego Costa!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
Spain's training-ground free kick ends up in the back of the net thanks to Busquets and Costa. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/lpEVcJALe5
Two minutes later, Spain was in front as Nacho's redemption was complete thanks to his wonder strike that immediately became an early candidate for goal of the tournament.
While these two European powers are looking up at Iran after its win over Morocco to open Group B play, both of the afternoon's combatants are still heavily favored to move into the knockout stages as easier tilts await.