SOCHI, Russia >> Cristiano Ronaldo completed a hat trick with a perfectly taken free kick in the 88th minute to give Portugal a 3-3 draw against Spain today at the World Cup.
Ronaldo had twice given Portugal the lead with first-half goals, but Diego Costa equalized for Spain with a goal in each half. Nacho Fernandez then put the 2010 champions ahead with a one-timer from outside the area in the Group B match.
Spain looked to have successfully overcome its dramatic coaching change one the eve of the tournament but Ronaldo curled a late shot over the wall to force the draw.
Ronaldo’s opening goal from the penalty spot allowed him to become the fourth player to score in four World Cups, joining Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler. Ronaldo also became the first Portuguese player to appear in four World Cups.
His second goal came after a blunder by Spain goalkeeper David de Gea, who let the ball bounce off his hands and into the net.
Spain badly needed a winning start after the federation fired coach Julen Lopetegui two days before its tournament debut for accepting a job with Real Madrid without letting it know in advance. Sporting director Fernando Hierro, a former player, was picked as Lopetegui’s replacement and was on the bench despite no significant previous coaching experience.
It was an exciting start to one of the group-stage’s most anticipated matches and it didn’t take long before Ronaldo and Portugal struck first.
Ronaldo made a nice stepover move to get past Fernandez, his Real Madrid teammate, and was fouled at the edge of the area. He then calmly sent his shot to the right corner as De Gea went the other way.
During the celebration, Ronaldo rubbed his chin in an apparent reaction to Adidas’ “GOAT” promotion with Lionel Messi. GOAT is the acronym for “greatest of all time” and Adidas is running an advertisement featuring Messi with a real goat.
As Ronaldo returned to midfield for the restart, he and Fernandez appeared to exchange words and the Portuguese star smiled.
Portugal threatened on counterattacks as Spain struggled to get near Rui Patricio’s goal, but a great long pass by Sergio Busquets allowed Costa to even the match. The striker beat defender Pepe to the ball and used several neat moves to clear defenders before firing a low shot into the corner from inside the area.
Portugal loudly complained for a foul by Costa on Pepe, and replays showed there was contact by the Spaniard’s arm with Pepe’s body, but referee Gianluca Rocchi allowed the play to continue. Portugal wanted the play to be reviewed, and Rocchi at one point put his hand to his ear, apparently indicating that the assistant referees didn’t see a clear error.
Goal-line technology came into play a few moments later when a Francisco “Isco” Alarcon’s shot struck the crossbar and dropped straight down on top of the goal line. After Isco complained, Rocchi pointed to his watch, which is where he gets goal-line technology confirmations.
Busquets and Costa teamed up again for Spain’s equalizer in the 55th. After a cross by Andres Iniesta, Busquets headed the ball back across the area and Costa touched it into the open net.
Three minutes later, Fernandez redeemed himself for the penalty on Ronaldo with a streaking shot after a ball cleared by the defense got deflected toward him. The ball struck the post before going into the goal.
The teams arrived in Russia as favorites to share first and second in the group, but the draw leaves them two points behind Iran, which defeated Morocco 1-0 earlier Friday.
Spain, trying to rebound from disappointing eliminations at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship, will next face Iran, while Portugal plays Morocco.
KEY TO SUCCESS
>> Portugal: The team has been able to succeed recently because of its steady defense, but this time it was not able to hold on to its early leads despite twice getting ahead with goals by Ronaldo. It was the star striker who saved the team from defeat with his late equalizer.
>> Spain: The Spanish looked lost after conceding the early goal to Ronaldo, but Costa’s strike helped Hierro’s team settle down and even the match.
Spain struggled to contain Portugal’s counterattacks, but it showed it remained a solid team despite Lopetegui’s absence.