Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five FIFA World Cups as his penalty helped Portugal secure a 3-2 win over Ghana in a thrilling Group H encounter.
Ronaldo, a free agent after leaving Manchester United by mutual consent in the wake of his explosive interview, hit back at his critics with yet another piece of history when he converted the opener from the spot after he was fouled by Mohammed Salisu (65).
Ghana equalised against the run of play when Andre Ayew, their own veteran striker, fired home from close range (73), but Portugal immediately responded with quickfire goals from Joao Felix (78) and substitute Rafael Leao (80), both set up by Bruno Fernandes.
Ronaldo, who scored his first World Cup goal as a 21-year-old back in 2006, revelled in the spotlight following a tumultuous week and received a standing ovation when he was substituted in the closing stages, but Portugal had to survive a nervy finale after Osman Bukari headed home Ghana’s second goal (89).
Ghana had a golden opportunity to level in the 10th minute of stoppage time when Inaki Williams caught Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa unawares to steal possession in the box, but the forward lost his footing at the crucial moment, allowing Ronaldo and his team-mates to cling on for victory.
Ronaldo dominated the build-up to the game as the fallout from his controversial interview last week continued, and he immediately took centre stage during it too, albeit for the wrong reasons as he missed two gilt-edged chances in the early stages.
First, a heavy first touch from Otavio’s through-ball allowed Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi to rush off his line and deny him in a one-on-one, then, minutes later, he headed a Raphael Guerreiro cross inexplicably wide at the far post.
Ronaldo did have the ball in the net in the 31st minute as Portugal continued to dominate, but he was adjudged to have fouled Alexander Djiku before firing past Ati-Zigi, the referee’s whistle ensuring his celebrations were short-lived.
Ronaldo, who has emerged as a transfer target for Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal following his release from Manchester United, continued to cut a frustrated figure in the first half, failing to capitalise when a Guerreiro header fell to him inside the six-yard box, but the narrative shifted dramatically after the interval.
Ghana had defended resolutely up until then, but Ronaldo finally seized his chance after he was adjudged to have been fouled by Salisu, firing an emphatic penalty beyond the reach of Ati-Zigi, his 118th international goal sparking wild Portugal celebrations.
Ghana were momentarily level after Portugal defender Danilo Pereira failed to intercept a cut-back from the dangerous Mohammed Kudus, allowing Ayew to score from close range.
But Otto Addo’s side were immediately pegged back again when Felix finished coolly from Fernandes’ through-ball, with substitute Leao then converting from another Fernandes pass for his first international goal only three minutes after coming on.
Those goals appeared to have taken the game away from Ghana, with Fernando Santos using the opportunity to take off Ronaldo for the final few minutes, but an error from Joao Cancelo allowed Bukari to pull another goal back and there was then a huge scare at the death when Costa was robbed by Williams.
In the end, though, Portugal held on, the victory taking them top of Group H and allowing Ronaldo to enjoy some respite as he continues to chase the one trophy that still eludes him.