Spain’s hopes of a win in their World Cup Group B opener versus Portugal were spoiled by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick as the two Iberian neighbours played to a thrilling 3-3 draw on Friday night at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.
Twice La Roja fought back from deficits, the second after a dreadful goalkeeping mistake from David De Gea on the brink of half-time, and took the lead through Nacho, but Ronaldo scored his third and final goal just minutes from full-time to earn Portugal the draw.
After such a chaotic week with the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui two days before Friday’s match and Fernando Hierro taking over, Spain showed no ill effects in attack, but a trio of errors in the back combined with Ronaldo’s brilliance resulted in a frustrating sharing of the points for La Roja.
There were still a few line-up questions for La Roja heading into Friday’s contest, and in the end Hierro opted to start Costa up top at striker ahead of Rodrigo and Iago Aspas, while Nacho was selected to fill in at right-back for Dani Carvajal, even though Alvaro Odriozola had started the previous two friendlies.
Portugal had a dream start as within the first minutes Nacho was whistled for a foul on Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo in the area and referee Gianluca Rocchi immediately pointed to the spot. Ronaldo stepped up and coolly slammed the spot kick past De Gea to hand Portugal a 1-0 lead.
Spain would fight back and it had to be their brawler, Costa, who fought off Pepe and the rest of the Portuguese defence before rocketing a shot home to even the score 1-1.
La Roja had tamed the Portugal counter-attack and started flying. Isco came within an inch of making it two when his rocket stung the crossbar and bounced down right on the goal-line, before Nacho was flagged was offside to give Portugal a reprieve.
It looked for all the world that Spain would score before the break, and there was a goal, but it came off the boot of Ronaldo, who hit a left-footer that De Gea completely flubbed to gift Portugal a 2-1 lead.
Despite their misfortune, Spain remained patient to start the second stanza, playing their possession game while poking and prodding the Portuguese defence. But the equaliser would come from a set piece, a rarity for La Roja. David Silva floated a ball to the back post that was met by Sergio Busquets, who headed across goal and Costa was there to head it home to make it a 2-2 contest.
Spain were brimming with belief and moments later it was 3-2 thanks to a superb strike from Nacho. Portugal failed to clear their lines and a ball fell perfectly for Nacho, whose swerving rocket banged off the post and in to hand Spain their first lead.
Finally in control on the scoreboard, Spain could play to their liking, but an ill-advised Gerard Pique foul handed Portugal a free kick in the final minutes, and Ronaldo happily put on his Superman cape and fired in past De Gea to dash Spain’s hopes of victory and give Portugal a draw that will feel like a win.
3.- Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Moutinho, William Carvalho; Bernardo Silva (Quaresma, min. 69), Bruno Fernandes (Joao Mario, min. 68), Guedes (Andre Silva, min. 80), Cristiano Ronaldo.
3.- Spain: De Gea; Nacho, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Koke, Silva (Lucas Vazquez, min. 86), Isco, Iniesta (Thiago, min. 70); Costa (Aspas, min. 77).
Goals: 1-0, min. 4: Ronaldo (p); 1-1, min. 23: Costa; 2-1, min. 45: Ronaldo; 2-2, min. 55: Costa; 2-3, min. 58: Nacho; 3-3, min. 87: Ronaldo.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).
Yellow cards: Busquets (Min. 17) for Spain, Bruno Fernandes (Min. 27) for Portugal.
Red cards: None.