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A single Cristiano Ronaldo strike was enough for Portugal to see off Russia in Wednesday’s Confederations Cup encounter.

MEXICO    –  2.   NEW ZEALAND – 1

Portugal went top of Group A at the Confederations Cup following a 1-0 win over Russia on Wednesday, Cristiano Ronaldo making the difference for the European champions.

The Real Madrid star found the net after just eight minutes, beating goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with a strong header from close range, and Stanislav Cherchesov’s side were unable to find a response.

Russia were high on confidence following their 2-0 win over New Zealand, whereas morale was somewhat low in the Portugal camp after they conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Mexico.

It was all Portugal in Moscow, though, and Ronaldo eventually led his side to victory amid a tumultuous personal period off the pitch. The 32-year-old has been linked with a move away from Madrid following scrutiny over his tax affairs in Spain.

Fernando Santos’ men now meet New Zealand on Saturday in their final game of the group stage, while Russia face Mexico on matchday three.

Portugal made an encouraging start to the game and went a goal up in the ninth minute via Ronaldo, the Real Madrid star escaping the attention of Fedor Kudriashov at the far post before heading home from close range following a fine cross from Raphael Guerreiro.

Ronaldo continued to cause the Russian defence all kinds of trouble in the opening stages and he was unfortunate not to double Portugal’s lead at the half-hour mark, Akinfeev pulling off a superb save to deny the forward from six yards out after a rapid counterattack.

The hosts first threatened late in the first half when Aleksandr Golovin reached Fedor Smolov with a low cross from the right, only for the Krasnodar star to aim his left-footed effort well wide of the Portugal goal.

New AC Milan signing Andre Silva could have added his name to the score sheet shortly after the break when he beat his marker to Cedric Soares’ cross from the right, but Akinfeev miraculously kept out the striker’s header with a stunning reflex save to keep Russia’s hopes alive.

Portugal kept on pushing for a second and Ronaldo should perhaps have doubled his tally after being set up by Andre Gomes at the hour mark, mistiming his header and sending the ball well wide of the target instead, before he wildly blasted a shot over the crossbar minutes later as the game started to open up.

It mattered little in the end, though, as Russia lacked the individual quality to really worry Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, the Seleccao seeing out a flurry of late pressure without any noteworthy problems.

GOAL!!! Ronaldo heads Portugal in front!! Raphael Guerreiro swings in a wonderful, deep cross from the left-hand side and Ronaldo peels away from Fedor Kudryashov at the back post and powers a header past Akinfeev from six yards out.

15′ Corner for Russia. Pepe argues that it didn’t hit off him but the referee doesn’t particularly care. He believes his own eyes.

21′ After hopes of it picking up, some more sloppy play. A succession of throws down Portugal’s right-hand side as they seem incapable of getting the ball out of that area. Seems like they don’t want to, or haven’t been given the chance to cross.

27′ After another attack breaks down, Golovin is booked for stopping Carvalho from starting a counter

SAVE!! A huge chance for Portugal as Ronaldo steps past Vasin with ease inside the penalty area and only has Akinfeev to beat from the corner of the six yard box, but his low, well-struck shot is well kept out by the Russian goalkeeper’s legs.

39′ Russia urged on by the home crowd. Ball in by Shishkin is a lovely one but Smolov can’t direct his stabbed effort towards goal. He needed to turn his body more to get that one on target. He knows himself too!

SAVE!! What a wonderful save from Akinfeev!! Ronaldo rolls the ball back to Cedric who whips a delightful cross into the middle towards Andre Silva, and the striker gets above Dzhikiya and heads the ball towards goal from seven yards out, but Akinfeev sticks out an arm and turns the ball away at full stretch.

63 CHANCE!! A chance at the other end now as Gomes draws Akinfeev off his line then stands up a cross towards Ronaldo on the edge of the six yard box, but the ball is just behind the Portugal captain and he fails to direct his header on target, with several Russia players having got back onto the line.

Teams: Russia (3-5-2): Akinfeev; Samedov, Dzhikiya, Vasin, Kudryashov, Zhirkov; Shishkin, Golovin, Glushakov; Smolov, Kombarov

Subs: Gabulov, Guilherme, Smolnikov, Kutepov, Kambolov, Gazinskiy, Tarasov, Erokhin, Kanunnikov, Poloz, Bukharov

Portugal (4-4-2): Patricio; Cedric, Alves, Pepe, Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, Carvalho, Adrien Silva, Gomes; Ronaldo, Andre Silva

Subs: Beto, Jose Sa, Neto, Nelsinho, Eliseu, Fonte, Pereira, Pizzi, Nani, Moutinho, Quaresma, Martins

In a related development Mexico defeated New Zealand 2-1 to top the table.

Oribe Peralta scored a dramatic winner as Mexico came from behind to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in Sochi and move top of Confederations Cup Group A. (c) June 21, 2017.

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