A virtuoso performance from one Real Madrid player helped Portugal overcome the
loss of another as they eventually saw off 10-man Cyprus to stay at the top of
Euro 2012 qualifying Group H.
The build-up to the game at the NEO GSP Stadium was overshadowed by the sudden
international retirement of Ricardo Carvalho, but his club team-mate Cristiano
Ronaldo was on hand to deliver three points anyway.
Ronaldo, who opened the new Primera Division season with a hat-trick against
Real Zaragoza last weekend, transferred his club form to his country with a
first-half penalty after Sinisa Dobrasinovic was sent off, and then wrapped
things up to move level with Nuno Gomes as his country`s fourth-highest all-time
He also laid on a third for Hugo Almeida and, although Danny added a fourth,
Paulo Bento`s men could have had double that amount were it not for Cyprus
goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides.
Considering the gulf between the two sides, it was surprising that it took
Portugal as long as eight minutes to register an effort on goal, with Helder
Postiga hitting wide from outside the box.
The pace remained pedestrian and Joao Pereira gave Georgallides something to do
with a long-range strike, before Ronaldo did his best to get things moving, also
If something was going to happen, it seemed likely the Madrid man would be at
the heart of it, but he was just an onlooker as Georgallides clawed Pepe`s
header round the post, before Chelsea new boy Raul Meireles nodded wide from
inside the box.
His domestic form meant Ronaldo was carrying some confidence into the game and
his header worked Georgallides again, before he scored the opener with 36
minutes gone from the spot.
Sinisa Dobrasinovic brought down Postiga in the box earning him a second yellow
card, and Ronaldo did the rest with some ease, taking his international tally to
Cyprus` task was always going to be difficult enough with a full compliment of
players, and Ronaldo reminded them that they had more than a half remaining as
he wrapped a free-kick into their wall from 25 yards.
Joao Moutinho then went close, before Georgallides, the only Cyprus player to
accrue any real credit, got his fingertips to Postiga`s effort just before the
Georgallides, who plays for AC Omonia, was certainly the star of the show and
his one-man barrier kept out Ronaldo again after the restart, with the forward`s
club team-mate Fabio Coentrao then denied by the post.
Nani was then foiled by Georgallides who must have been wondering where the
help was from his team-mates, but they did manage to tighten things up until
Ronaldo put the seal on things with eight minutes left.
He took in Nani`s pass and nonchalantly finished, before Almeida took in a ball
from the man of the moment to add a third as Cyprus and Georgallides finally
Danny`s goal in injury time, a neat effort after a Moutinho tee-up was a harsh
reflection on the stopper but, with his team-mates unable to offer anything, the
result was more than fair.