Spain and Portugal played to a thrilling 3-3 draw in Sochi, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick in the 88th minute sealing a hat trick and securing the point for his country. Spain had come back from a goal down on two occasions and then went ahead after a stunning rocket from Nacho, before Ronaldo’s heroics saved the day.
The match would already have had a spotlight on it, but that focus got even larger when Spain fired manager Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday, a day after he accepted the Real Madrid manager job for after the World Cup with the Spanish federation in the dark. In stepped Fernando Hierro, who has been tasked with bringing Spain together after such chaos so close to the tournament.
That wasn’t ever going to be easy, especially with the 2016 European champions and Cristiano Ronaldo standing on the other side of the field, and it proved to be a tough test off the bat.
Ronaldo wasted little time getting on the board for Portugal. Real Madrid teammate Nacho took him down as he dribbled in the Spain box, and after a quick check with the VAR, the penalty stood. Ronaldo beat David de Gea from the spot to give Portugal the lead in the fourth minute.
Spain struggled to get a hold of the game, but carved out a couple of opportunities in the 20th minute, the best of which came with Andres Iniesta juking a defender and slipping a pass for David Silva, whose chance was put wide of the mark.
Portugal then nearly struck on the other end a couple of minutes later, when Ronaldo crossed for Goncalo Guedes, only for the young forward to hesitate, allowing Spain’s defenders to recover and win the ball.
Spain then equalized in the next minute. Diego Costa won the ball off Pepe, then beat two defenders on an incredible individual effort to score and Spain level at 1-1. VAR was consulted to see if Costa had fouled Pepe, but the 24th-minute goal stood.
Spain nearly took the lead moments later. Isco ripped a rocket that hit off the underside of the crossbar and came down on the goal line, clearly not crossing entirely. Jordi Alba has his rebound at the goalmouth saved by Rui Patricio, but he was offside even if he had scored.
Spain continued to dominate the ball after the momentum boost provided by the goal, and at the end of a brilliant passing sequence Jordi Alba hit a cut-back cross to Andres Iniesta. The ex-Barcelona legend tried to steer it on goal, but he missed the far post by inches, keeping the game level at 1-1.
Just when it appeared that Spain would take its momentum into halftime, Ronaldo benefitted from a gift. Against the run of play, Ronaldo fired a low chance on frame that De Gea spilled into his own goal. It was an uncharacteristic gaffe from the Manchester United goalkeeper, who was spectacular all season in the Premier League.
Diego Costa came up with his second equalizer of the day in the 55th minute off a well-designed set play. David Silva lofted a free kick toward the right post, where Nacho headed it back across goal. The Atletico Madrid forward was there to bundle it home on the goal line, bringing Spain back level at 2-2.
If Nacho didn’t make up for his earlier penalty concession with the assist, he did with what came next. A clearance fell to him some 25 yards from goal, and he laced a perfect volley off the inside of the far post and in to give Spain its first lead of the day. The goal was Nacho’s first on the international stage–and it came in some fashion.
Ronaldo made sure to have a final say. After being taken down by Gerard Pique with a needless foul as full time approached, the Real Madrid sensation stepped up for the free kick and hit it perfectly, sealing his hat trick and making it 3-3.