Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Sweden 2-3 Portugal (agg 2-4): Ronaldo hat trick puts Ibrahimovic in the shade

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Real Madrid star produced another stunning match-winning display to ensure that he, rather than his Paris Saint-Germain rival, will feature in Brazil next summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a sensational hat trick as Portugal beat Sweden 3-2 (4-2 on aggregate) and booked their place at World Cup 2014.

The Real Madrid man had scored the only goal of the first leg in Lisbon on Friday night, and it looked to be plain sailing for Portugal when he opened the scoring in the second leg just after halftime.

However, this had been billed as a duel between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo, and the Sweden skipper stepped up to the plate with a double to level the tie on aggregate at 2-2.

But Portugal was still in front on away goals and Ronaldo made sure his side would go through as he first levelled on the night and then scored his hat trick to take his tally to 13 goals in his last six games and become his country's joint-leading scorer in the 4-2 aggregate win.

Such was Ronaldo's brilliance that Ibrahimovic applauded the Real Madrid striker when he scored his second goal as Portugal qualified for a fourth consecutive World Cup finals, while Sweden miss out for a second successive cycle.

The Seleccao lost striker Helder Postiga to injury in the warm up, so Hugo Almeida replaced the Valencia striker, while Sweden coach Erik Hamren kept faith with the same side that was beaten in Lisbon on Friday night.

After a frantic start, it was Portugal who came close to the opening goal after 15 minutes when Bruno Alves rose to meet Jose Moutinho's inviting free kick and his downward header was palmed away by Andreas Isaksson.

Ronaldo tried his luck with his left foot from 25 yards 10 minutes before the break, but Isaksson got down to make the save. And the Real Madrid forward should have done better less than a minute later when he blazed over the crossbar from around 12 yards out after Joao Pereira picked him out.

Sweden was struggling to live with the Portugal captain's movement and seven minutes before halftime he found space and stood up a cross to the back post for Almeida, but the Besiktas striker headed wastefully wide of the near post from close range.

Ronaldo had yet another chance two minutes before the break when he got on the end of Nani's cross but once again failed to test Isaksson.

Sebastian Larsson had a golden opportunity to level the tie three minutes into the second half when Rui Patricio denied him from 10 yards out after Ibrahimovic had pulled the ball back.

And that miss proved costly, as just a minute later Moutinho set Ronaldo away with a delightful through ball and this time he made no mistake with a deadly left-foot finish to stun the home crowd.

Sweden looked devoid of ideas, but it was given a lifeline after 67 minutes when Ibrahimovic headed home a corner from the right.

The Swedes then thought they had a penalty soon after when Kim Kallstrom tumbled in the area, but referee Howard Webb booked the midfielder for diving.

Ibrahimovic took matters into his own hands once again, however, when he rifled a free-kick through the wall 18 minutes from time to level the tie on aggregate.

But Ronaldo was not finished yet and he levelled with a fine left footed finish as Sweden was hit on the break 13 minutes from time and then completed his hat-trick a minute later by rounding the keeper and netting once again.

There was still time for Ronaldo to become Portugal's leading scorer, but this time he was narrowly off target. However, that was never going to take the gloss off his outstanding display.

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