Cristiano Ronaldo scored a magnificent hat-trick on Friday to rescue a point for Portugal against Spain in the dying minutes as the World Cup in Russia caught alight.
Ronaldo’s 51st career hat-trick in the 3-3 draw cancelled out two goals from Diego Costa and a strike from Nacho just as Spain looked like putting their chaotic week behind them with a morale-boosting win.
Elsewhere on day two of the tournament in Russia, Egypt left out Mohamed Salah and suffered a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat in the final minutes to Uruguay, while Iran snatched a last-gasp win against Morocco courtesy of an own goal.
The Group B clash between Ronaldo’s European champions and 2010 World Cup winners Spain in Sochi was a red-letter day on the competition’s calendar and it did not disappoint.
It was given added spice after the Spanish federation sacked Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament after Real Madrid announced he would be taking over at the Bernabeu following the tournament.
Former Real stalwart Fernando Hierro has been thrown into the deep end as head coach, with little coaching experience and huge pressure on his shoulders.
Hierro watched from the sidelines as his team edged ahead 3-2 in the second half after twice battling back from behind in the match in the Black Sea resort city.
Ronaldo opened the scoring in the fourth minute from a penalty that he himself won and struck again on the cusp of half-time when Spain goalkeeper David de Gea failed to make a routine save.
Both times Atletico Madrid’s Costa equalised and Spain took the lead through Nacho in the 58th minute, who struck the ball sweetly past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Spain appeared to be in control in the closing stages but when Ronaldo was awarded a free kick on the edge of the area the stadium held its breath.
The Real Madrid man took his time lining up the shot before delivering emphatically, curling the ball past the despairing dive of De Gea.
© Agence France-Presse