Portugal vs Ghana 3-2: Ronaldo Struggles But Starts Off on Right Foot

Portugal got their job done in their World Cup campaign opener as they overcame Ghana 3-2 at the end of a fun, bizarre match where 65 minutes of absolute nothingness were compensated by five goals scored in the last part of the game. 

That was unfortunate for Ghana, who had managed to equalize Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot kick opener but wasted it all in the space of two minutes with two sounding errors that triggered Portugal’s next goals. 

Not the most brilliant win for Fernando Santos’ Selecao but getting the three points on offer was the only thing that mattered. As for the Black Stars, if they just believed in it a bit more…

The match at the Stadium 974 kicked off with all eyes were obviously on the most expensive free agent ever. Ronaldo’s first effort, prompted by a Ghana mistake, came after 10 minutes but crashed against the goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi. Portugal were in full control but struggled to create scoring chances. Fernando Santos’ side appeared slow and predictable. 

Coach Otto Addo’s plan for Ghana, on the other hand, was clear as the Black Stars just tried not to get hurt and did not even touch the ball in the opposition’s half for the entire first period. At half time, the scorecard still read 0-0 as Cristiano Ronaldo did find the net but only after play had been stopped for a foul in the build-up. 

The pattern after the restart was the same until 65 minutes, with the only Mohammed Kudus trying to shake things up from the Ghana side and Portugal seeming not to have any option but trying to trigger Ronaldo. 

But since the plan was not successful, the Manchester United defector took the matter into his own hands, falling down from a clumsy, yet slight push in the box by Mohammed Salisu. Not many referees would have seen a penalty opportunity in that. US-born Ismael Elfath did. 

From the spot, Ronaldo discharged all the tension accumulated these past few weeks with a powerful conversion that left no chance to Ati-Zigi. 

That was the episode that set the match afire as Addo’s side finally woke up and grabbed an equalizer that not many would have believed possible, given the match trend. Out of nowhere, Kudus was picked on the left channel and sent the ball in for André Ayew in the center of the box. The locally-featuring Ayew – he plays in Qatar for Al Sadd – just could not miss. 

The Black Stars showed that they could give Portugal a run for their money after all, but wasted everything in the space of two minutes. First, an incredible defensive miss by Baba Rahman left Joax Felix to receive a clinical filtering pass from Bruno Fernandes and put the ball past the keeper to make it 2-1.

Then, Milan’s Rafael Leao, who had just come in, made it three as he also received the ball from Bruno Fernandes and curled it into the bottom right corner after another blunder from Ghana in midfield had triggered the Selecao‘s counter.

Portugal believed the day was over but were punished on 89 minutes, as another breach in their right defensive side resulted in Osman Bukari’s header that kept the match outcome in doubt until the end.

However, Ronaldo and co resisted until the end, even though their goalkeeper Diogo Costa did everything he could to give his coach and fans a late scare. Good for him that Inaki Williams slid as he attempted to steal the ball from the incautious goalie, coming from his back as Costa was putting the ball in play.

Inter legend Joaquim Peiró had successfully performed a similar feat in an epic European Cup Semi Final against Liverpool in 1965. But these are just different times.    



November 24, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group G

SCORERS: 65′ Cristiano Ronaldo (P, pen.), 73′ A. Ayew (G), 78′ Joao Felix (P), 80′ Rafael Leao (P), 89′ Bukari (G)

PORTUGAL (4-2-3-1): Diogo Costa; Cancelo, Bruno Dias, Danilo, Guerreiro; Bruno Fernandes, Neves (77′ Rafael Leao), Otavio (56′ William Carvalho); Bernardo Silva (88′ Palhinha); Joao Felix (88′ Goncalo Ramos), Cristiano Ronaldo (88′ Joao Mario) (Rui Patricio, José Sà, Pepe, Diogo Dalot, Antonio Silva, Vitinha, Matheus Nunes, R. Horta, Andre Silva) Coach: Fernando Santos
GHANA (5-4-1): Ati-Zigi; Seidu (67′ Lamptey), Djiku, Amartey, Salisu, Baba; Kudus (76′ Bukari), Partey, Abdul Samed, A. Ayew (76′ J. Ayew); Williams (Danlad, Nurudeen, Mensah, Aidoo, Odoi, Kyereh, Sulemana, Owusu, Semenyo, Sowah, Afriyie, Fatawu) Coach: Addo
REFEREE: Mr. Elfath (USA)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Danilo, Bruno Fernandes (P), Kudus, Ayew, Seidu, Williams (G); Added Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 9′
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