Doha. Cristiano Ronaldo rewrote the history books again on Thursday after becoming the first man to score at five World Cups with the opening goal in Portugal’s tight 3-2 win over Ghana.
The 37-year-old set the record with a 65th-minute penalty at the 974 Stadium in Doha, helping Fernando Santos’ team to a victory which moved them top of Group H, two points ahead of Uruguay and South Korea.
Joao Felix and rising star Rafael Leao then made sure of the win after Andre Ayew’s leveller had briefly threatened to ruin Ronaldo’s party.
Osman Bukari netted in the final minute for Ghana but the tournament’s lowest-ranked side couldn’t pull off a shock and sit bottom of the group.
Ronaldo overtakes Pele and Germans Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose, who all scored in four World Cups, after being brought down by Mohammed Salisu and taking the penalty himself.
But Ghana coach Otto Addo said the decision was to award the penalty was “a special gift from the referee” Ismail Elfath as he thought Ronaldo fouled Salisu.
Addo’s Portugal counterpart Fernando Santos then said he wouldn’t “make any comment on what my colleague said”, before insisting that had it not been a foul the VAR officials would have informed Elfath on the pitch.
“We should also give credit to Ghana because they also played very well,” Santos said of his spirited opponents.
“Now it’s time for us to rest and after the rest we will have a conversation to take stock of the match.”
Manchester United announced this week that Ronaldo will leave with immediate effect after he criticised the club and manager Erik ten Hag in a TV interview.
And Ronaldo later said that a “chapter is closed” following his bitter departure from Old Trafford, despite a far from vintage performance from the ageing icon.
All eyes on Ronaldo
All the attention pre-match was on Ronaldo and whether he could break the record and he had the perfect chance to do so in the 10th minute.
Mohammed Kudus gave the ball away sloppily in midfield and Otavio slipped Ronaldo through, only for the once clinical finisher to miscontrol the pass and clatter into Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi as he tried to recover and poke home.
And shortly afterwards Ronaldo headed Raphael Guerreiro’s deep cross wide from close range, a chance that in his prime he would have been almost guaranteed to score.
He did have the ball in the net just after the half-hour mark when it dropped to him in the area, but he was harshly judged by Elfath to have pushed Alexander Djiku before turning and stroking home a classy finish.
Ronaldo was in fact Portugal’s only real goal threat early on against what on paper is Group H’s weakest team, who were backed by an enthusiastic set of supporters who put on more of a show in the stands than their workaday players initially did on the pitch.
Ajax midfielder Kudus had the crowd briefly off their feet 10 minutes after the break when he burst forward against an exposed Portugal defence and let off a powerful shot which in the end sailed comfortably wide of Diogo Costa’s left-hand post.
Ronaldo then crashed in his record-breaking penalty but as the chorus of cheers and chants of his name started to die down a previously dull game sparked into life, Ayew stunning the crowd by tapping in Kudus’ pull-back in the 73rd minute.
However Felix and Leao made sure Portugal would take the points with two lovely finishes in as many minutes, both strikes set up by Ronaldo’s former United teammate Bruno Fernandes.
Bukari then imitated Ronaldo with his goal celebration after heading home completely unmarked and deep in stoppage time Ghana had the chance to snatch an unlikely draw.
Costa dropped the ball at his feet completely unaware that Inaki Williams was prowling, but luckily for Portugal after nicking the ball the Athletic Bilbao forward slipped and Portugal held out for a big win on a historic day.