Ronaldo the hero as lacklustre Portugal eliminate Morocco from World Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference maker as a lacklustre Portugal side defeated Morocco to make the Atlas Lions the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.Ronaldo’s goal, scored early on after he lost his marker from a corner, was all that separated the two sides in a match Morocco will feel aggrieved to have come out of without a point to their name. 4 Morocco started on the front foot, but before the fifth minute Ronaldo put his nation ahead with his fourth goal of the tournament.That was a rare chance in the opening stages, and the match entered the routine of Morocco doing well with the ball while Portugal sat deep and looked to break with speed..Ronaldo followed up his early goal with perhaps Portugal’s best chance of the remainder of the match, but he smashed the ball high and wide after Bernardo Silva’s cut-back found him on the edge of the area.Despite that chance, it was the losers who enjoyed the best of the play, though they struggled to really trouble Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal until after the break. But when they did manage to get shots off, Patricio was forced to show his true quality to deny Morocco their first goal of the tournament; he first denied Younes Belhanda’s strike from just outside the box, before making a remarkable stop to keep out a header from the same player. 4 MOMENT OF THE MATCHRui Patricio kept a very lacklustre Portugal in the game with a truly superb save from Younes Belhanda’s header (pictured above). The ball looked destined for the far corner, but Patricio got across his goal line quickly enough to claw it wide. If that had gone in, Morocco would have tied the match at 1-1, and given Portugal’s poor performance it is hard to imagine they would have ever retaken the lead. Patricio’s save was truly a match winner.LINE-UPSPortugal XI: Rui Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Bernardo Silva (Martins 59′), William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho (Adrien Silva 89′), Joao Mario (Bruno Fernandes, 70′), Goncalo Guedes, RonaldoSubs not used: Lopes, Bruno Alves, Fernandes, Andre Silva, Dias, Ricardo Pereira, Mario Rui, Quaresma, BetoMorocco: Mohamedi, Dirar, Benatia, da Costa, Hakimi, Nordin Amrabat, El Ahmadi (Fajr 86′), Belhanda (Carcela-Gonzalez 75′), Boussoufa, Ziyech, Boutaib (El Kaabi 70′)Subs not used: Bounou, Mendyl, Saiss, Ait Bennasser, Harit, En-Nesyri, Bouhaddouz, Sofyan Amrabat, TagnaoutiGROUP B TABLE Ronaldo headed the winning goal after just four minutes Mehdi Benatia fired over when the ball rolled to him 12 yards from goal, before Hakim Ziyech – a threat to Portugal throughout – curled a free-kick just above Patricio’s crossbar.Morocco ramped the pressure up even further as the game entered the final 10 minutes, bringing on centre forward Ayoub El Kaabi and throwing bodies forward.Ziyech broke into the area but saw his shot blocked by Pepe, and, in the dying stages, Benatia fired over again from inside the area.The look on his face as he ambled back towards his own half, one of resigned disappointment, was mirrored by his team-mates, and likely the whole of Morocco.STAR MANHakim Ziyech may not have done enough to guide Morocco to a point, or even a goal, but he showed his true class throughout the match. He was a livewire in the final third, linking play between the midfield and attack with a number of fine passing movements and neat touches. He also created his side’s clearest goal scoring chances, primarily from set-pieces using his brilliant dead ball ability. 4 Ziyech was Morocco’s biggest threat throughout the match, and the best player on the pitch Patricio made one superb save to deny Belhanda 4 talkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network.