Moscow, June 21 (IANS) Cristiano Ronaldo became Europe’s all-time leading scorer as Portugal beat Morocco 1-0 in their FIFA World Cup Group B match here at the Luzhniki Stadium here on Wednesday.
Ronaldo sent Portugal ahead in the fourth minute by outmuscling his marker and firing in a bullet header after a Joao Moutinho corner at Luzhniki Stadium, reports Xinhua news agency.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid star has now scored 85 international goals, surpassing the mark held by Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas.
His strike here followed a hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening World Cup match on Friday.
This result all but eliminates Morocco from the tournament while Portugal are almost guaranteed of a berth in the knockout stage, even before their last group fixture against Iran on Monday.
It was not a vintage performance from Portugal as the reigning European champions seemed content to allow Morocco to control possession while creating few chances on the counterattack.
Fortunately for Fernando Santos’s men, the African side’s lack of quality in the final third proved telling as a number of chances went begging.
Ronaldo’s strike gave his team the perfect start and the Portugal captain nearly made it 2-0 minutes later by rolling the ball back under his foot, turning and shooting just wide of the left post.
Despite trailing, Morocco looked the better team for large parts of the first half as they dictated possession but struggled to find a cutting edge in attack.
Younes Belhanda, Noureddine Amrabat and Karim El Ahmadi orchestrated play through the middle but their teammates were guilty of spurning a number of gilt-edged chances.
Khalid Boutaib directed a header straight at goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Mbark Boussoufa just failed to reach a Nabil Dirar cross before being crowded out by Portugal’s defence.
Morocco’s best chance of the first half arguably came in stoppage time when Belhanda’s flick-on from a set piece almost allowed Benatia to head in at the far post.
Herve Renard’s side continued to hold the initiative after the break. Belhanda shot straight at Patricio after being fed by Amrabat on the left and Belhanda’s towering header from a free-kick then forced a superb diving save from Patricio.
Santos replaced Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva with Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins on the hour mark in a bid to capitailze on open spaces left by Morocco’s high defensive line.
But chances continued to fall for Morocco. Benatia twice blazed over after deftly controlling set pieces that were floated into the area and Hakim Ziyach saw his attempt from close range sail over after being partially blocked.