Ronaldo's late strike

With a 3-0 victory over a resolute Hungary on Tuesday, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s late strike made history as he becomes the first player to feature in five European Championships.

In the Group F match, Hungary rode a wave of early pressure from Portugal and had a goal called out for offside just before Raphael Guerreiro of Portugal broke the deadlock with a deflected attempt in the 84th minute.

Captain Ronaldo’s late strike secured the victory with a penalty kick in the 87th minute, moving him above of Michel Platini as the all-time leading scorer at the finals with ten goals.

“It was a very difficult game but we got three goals. It was vital to win and start the tournament with confidence and now we want to keep on winning,” said Ronaldo.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos added: “If we’d scored earlier it would have been easier for us. We missed a few chances then had some anxious moments but found our composure again and finished the game well.”

The two sides had drawn 3-3 in one of the best games of Euro 2016 and although there were fewer goals this time around the match was no less compelling as the vociferous locals filled the Puskas Arena to capacity.

The action on the pitch mirrored the fervour in the stands as Portugal played with real intensity, playing a direct game and hitting their front three with quick, long passes.

Diogo Jota had the first clear sight of goal when he thumped a shot which was parried by keeper Peter Gulacsi, incurring the wrath of a furious Ronaldo who was in a better place to shoot.

RONALDO MISS

Ronaldo was left only blaming himself late in the first half though when he uncharacteristically missed the target from close range after an incisive cross from Bruno Fernandes.

Striker Adam Szalai was Hungary’s main threat, heading a free kick into the arms of Rui Patricio shortly before halftime then testing the keeper again early in the second half.

Portugal’s veteran defender Pepe nearly scored at the start of the second half but was thwarted by the ever-alert Gulacsi, who later turned away a strike from Fernandes.

Hungary substitute Szabolcs Schon set the stadium alight in the 80th minute when his shot squirmed past Patricio but the linesman’s flag was quickly raised to puncture the celebrations.

Guerreiro soon brought the hosts more pain as his scuffed shot trickled into the far corner of the net off the foot of Hungary defender Willi Orban, who moments later fouled Rafa Silva to allow Ronaldo to score from the spot.

Ronaldo then combined with Silva to calmly dance past Gulacsi and round off a day of records after also becoming the only player to feature in five European Championships and to play the most games at the finals.

The noisy locals and a sizeable travelling Portugal support made for a raucous atmosphere barely seen at any football game since the novel coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020 and forced matches behind closed doors.

Hungary recorded the most deaths per capita in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data, but football-mad Prime Minister Viktor Orban was intent on filling the shiny new stadium, which opened in 2019, as he seeks to boost his popularity ahead of next year’s election.

Orban, who was at the game, has channelled billions of euros in state funds to upgrade an ageing football infrastructure and incurred widespread criticism for prioritising football over healthcare funds, particularly as the pandemic raged.

MATCH FACTS

– Portugal equalled their largest margin of victory at the European Championships, with their previous victories by three goals coming in 1996 (3-0 v Croatia) and 2000 (3-0 v Germany).

– Hungary are winless in their last four games at the European Championships (D2 L2), conceding at least three goals in each of the last three (two of those against Portugal).

– Portugal won their opening game at a major tournament (World Cup & Euros) for the first time since Euro 2008, having been winless in each of their previous five coming into this game (D3 L2).

– Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in European Championship Finals history to score 10+ goals in the competition (11), overtaking Michel Platini’s record of nine (all scored in the 1984 edition).

– There were just 177 seconds between Portugal opening the scoring and taking a 2-0 lead through Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty – in converting his spot kick, the Juventus striker became the oldest player to score for Portugal at a major tournament (World Cup & Euros), aged 36 years and 130 days.

– Portugal became the first team in the history of the European Championships to score three goals in the final 10 minutes of a game.

– This was Cristiano Ronaldo’s 39th appearance at a major tournament (World Cup & Euros) for Portugal, an all-time record for a European player, overtaking Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 38 appearances for Germany.

– Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in European Championships history to appear at five different tournaments (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020).

– The average age of Portugal’s starting XI against Hungary was 29 years and 173 days; their oldest in a game when appearing at the European Championships.

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