Football

Ronaldo lets his football do the talking

Ronaldo fires Portugal to the brink of semi-finals despite uncertainty over Real Madrid future

Cristiano Ronaldo brushed aside his off-field problems by scoring the winner as Portugal edged out hosts Russia 1-0 at the Confederations Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time), before Oribe Peralta gave Mexico a 2-1 comeback win over New Zealand.

Ronaldo's eighth-minute header in Moscow gave Portugal their first win in the tournament. Victory over New Zealand tomorrow will secure a semi-final spot.

Ronaldo let his football do the talking after the recent tax-evasion accusations that have cast doubts over his Real Madrid future. This was his second Man-of-the-Match performance following last Sunday's 2-2 draw with Mexico.

The forward said Portugal were worthy winners after surviving a second-half Russian fightback.

"We're very happy, it's the first time Portugal have won in Russia. The team played very well against a side playing at home with the support of their fans. But we were better, we had more chances," he said.

Ronaldo is accused by Spanish authorities of evading 14.7 million euros (S$22.8m) in tax and has been summoned to appear in court next month in Madrid.

But he was all smiles, escorting a young mascot in a wheelchair out onto the Moscow pitch before netting his first Confederations Cup goal.

Portugal's win came at a cost though, as Borussia Dortmund defender Raphael Guerreiro had to be helped off on 65 minutes with a broken leg.

The team played very well against a side playing at home with the support of their fans. But we were better, we had more chances.Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo

The 23-year-old left back will miss the rest of the Confederations Cup after revealing yesterday that he has been playing with a fractured leg for months.

"Thank you for your messages, I have a fracture, but it happened three months ago," Guerreiro wrote on his official Instagram account.

"Fortunately, the fracture is not causing me any pain, but I can't put my foot on the ground or move. I'll be behind my teammates for the rest of the competition."

Guerreiro's towering cross from the left flank hung in the air and found Ronaldo, who rose at the far post to head back across Igor Akinfeev.

Only a superb one-handed reflex save from Akinfeev, who made his 100th international appearance, stopped Andre Silva's bullet header just after the break.

The hosts were unlucky not to force an equaliser after a string of chances in a strong second-half display.

Defender Georgy Dzhikiya headed narrowly over the bar from the game's final corner in added time.

Meanwhile, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has apologised after television cameras caught him using an expletive during the ill-tempered Confederations Cup match against New Zealand in Sochi yesterday morning.

Goals from Peralta and Raul Jimenez saw Mexico move top of Group A, above Portugal on goals scored, and knock New Zealand out of the competition.

Osorio said he was incensed during the first half of the game when Mexico defender Carlos Salcedo was left injured after a clash with rival forward Chris Wood in the New Zealand area and their opponents failed to kick the ball out of play.

New Zealand played on, went down the other end and nearly scored, with the Mexicans urging their opponents to stop the game.

APOLOGIES

"I want to apologise to all the television viewers, I obviously went over the top when I got involved with their assistant coach," he told Mexican media after his side's 2-1 win.

"We always understood and respected their way of playing, a very direct type of football, with a lot of contact."

"The situation in which Carlos Salcedo was left on the ground gave them a goalscoring chance," added the Colombian.

"Our players and myself were shouting at them and the New Zealand coach to stop the match." - WIRE SERVICES

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