Ronaldo Lifts Portugal
MOSCOW (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo made European soccer history by scoring in Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco on Wednesday, a result that makes the North African team the first to be eliminated from the World Cup.
Ronaldo’s header in the fourth minute was his fourth goal at this year’s tournament, and his 85th for his country. That moved him ahead of Hungary great Ferenc Puskas and alone in second place worldwide behind Ali Daei’s 109 goals for Iran.
The Portugal forward celebrated his goal with a trademark run and soaring leap toward the corner flag at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Morocco lost 1-0 for the second straight Group B match and is out of contention for a spot in the next round.
The North Africans had several chances against Portugal, nearly all from set pieces, and three of them came in a five-minute spell early in the second half. Younes Belhanda was twice denied by goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s diving saves, and defender Mehdi Benatia scooped a shot over the bar.
In injury time, Benatia lifted another shot too high with an even clearer chance.
Ronaldo’s four goals tops the individual scoring chart at the World Cup. Buoyed by his hat trick against Spain on Friday, including a spectacular free kick late in the game, Ronaldo scored against Morocco with his first meaningful touch early in the match.
Spain 1, Iran 0
KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Diego Costa scored on a deflection to lead Spain past Iran.
Costa broke the deadlock in the 54th minute after being set up by Andres Iniesta. The powerful striker turned in the area and took a shot but the ball deflected off Ramin Rezeian before bouncing back onto Costa’s knee and into the net.
Costa, who also scored two goals in the opening match, has three goals at this year’s World Cup, trailing Cristiano Ronaldo by one. He also has nine goals in his last nine starts for Spain.
Both Spain and Portugal have four points in Group B following their 3-3 draw and subsequent 1-0 victories. Iran has three points in the group but Morocco has been eliminated.
Facing a very compact Iranian team that came out to defend, Spain pressed very high and had to be patient. The 2010 World Cup champions were almost caught against the run of the play when Karim Ansarifard unleashed a powerful strike that ended up in the side-netting following a long thrown in.
Trailing in the second half, Iran nearly equalized when Saeid Ezatolahi had a goal was ruled out on video review.
Iran continued to push hard and managed to challenge with some fast counterattacks.
Spain was lucky not to concede toward the end as Mehdi Taremi connected with a cross from Ansarifard but his header from close range went over the crossbar.