The image of a smiling Bruno Fernandes flashed up on the big screens and a groan of disappointment washed around the stadium. Just in case there was any confusion about who and what they were all here to see. It wasn’t poor old Bruno.
They were here to Cristiano Ronaldo. They were here to see him score a goal in the Lusail Stadium, the home to this year’s World Cup final. The place where Lionel Messi found the net on Saturday night.
Anything Messi can do Ronaldo can do, right? It seemed so in the 54th minute when Fernandes clipped the ball across from Portugal’s left wing and Ronaldo escaped Sebastian Coates, sprang and applied the faintest of glancing headers.
Bruno Fernandes celebrates his stoppage time penalty that helped fire Portugal to a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in Group H
Fernandes’s spot-kick sent the keeper the wrong way at the Lusail Stadium as Portugal booked their spot in the last-16
Portugal are one of three teams to have secured their place in the knock-out round still with one match to spare
Off he sprinted to celebrate as it settled in the net, biceps bulging and fists pumping, although he did refrain from the full-scale spring and pirouette affair, which may have been the first hint that he knew he had not made contact with the ball.
At this tournament, FIFA are using an Adidas ball containing a sensor as part of the semi-automated offside technology. It is meant to be able to detect the slightest touch so someone, somewhere knew whose goal it was.
They awarded it to Fernandes although, presumably, Portugal boss Fernando Santos cared not a jot whose it was. It set them onto the way to another win and a place in the last 16, exacting a modicum of revenge for the World Cup exit at the hands of Uruguay four years ago.
Cristiano Ronaldo claimed to have headed Portugal in front after attacking a Bruno Fernandes cross in the second half
The former Manchester United forward was convinced he had got a touch and was initially credited with the goal
However despite his celebrations, FIFA officials soon credited Portugal’s opening goal to his team-mate Fernandes
Fernandes claimed his second of the night, a penalty generously awarded for handball after a VAR referral.
Ronaldo couldn’t claim this one. He was resting on the bench, otherwise he would surely have stepped up to take it to the thrill of a crowd close to 89,000, who devoured his every move from the moment he first emerged, strutted through the warm-up and started the game with a shoulder pass and a towering leap to win a header.
In truth, the forward without a club has been close to the centre of attention since the tournament began.
He arrived in the storm caused by an interview, was released by Manchester United and scored Portugal’s first of the tournament, making him the first man to score in five World Cups.
In the stands of the Lusail many shrieked when he performed a couple of unnecessary step-overs near a corner flag and wobbled his leg. It was a strange reaction. Not one he would expect at Old Trafford, but the best performers know their audience.
Here he was peacocking through the party hits and, in truth, there had been very little else to tempt the paying public from their very expensive seats during a cautious, disjointed and niggly opening phase played out at a pedestrian tempo.
Fernandes was substituted late in the second half by manager Fernando Santos following a strong display in attack
The forward was all smiles at the final whistle as he celebrates Portugal’s progression along with match winner Fernandes
Rodrigo Bentancur was booked in the fifth minute, late on Ruben Dias, and set himself a dangerous path.
Every challenge he made became a potential problem, with Portugal’s players inviting him into a tackle by delaying the release of their pass. Then collapsing in a heap when he got close enough to make contact. Uruguay reciprocated, and it did nothing to help the flow of the game.
Bentancur carved out the best chance of the first half. It was created all by himself, carrying the ball forward inside his own half before jinking between two defenders on the edge of the Portugal penalty area and breaking through onto the goalkeeper.
Fernandes was a star man for Portugal even winning their late penalty after a handball from Uruguay’s Jose Gimenez
The decision to award Portugal a penalty was a controversial one, with Gimenez’s arm action seemingly innocuous
Luis Suarez came off the bench for Uruguay but couldn’t make an impact after snatching wide with a near post shot
He scored four in his last five Premier League games for Tottenham but could not find a way past ‘keeper Diogo Costa on this occasion. Costa closed him down, spread his body and made a block with his legs.
Veteran defender Pepe returned to the Portugal back four at the age of 39 as a replacement for Danilo Pereira who broke ribs in training and is ruled out of the group stage. There was another injury blow when left back Nuno Mendes was hurt before half time and limped off in tears.
Joao Felix wasted Portugal’s first clear chance, seconds after a pitch invader carrying a rainbow flag interrupted proceedings, but they were soon ahead thanks to the Fernandes cross not headed in by Ronaldo.
Uruguay’s best chance fell to Tottenham’s Rodrigo Bentancur in the first half, who was denied trying to nutmeg Diogo Costa
Portugal though will have injury concerns for the last-16 though with Nuno Mendes having to limp off in the first half
Portugal dominated much of the match but Uruguay lacked a clinical edge in front of goal – graphic from Sofascore
Belatedly, Uruguay took some risks, rallied and went close to an equaliser. Maxi Gomez rattled a post with a fierce shot and Luis Suarez hit the side netting. Giorgian de Arrascaeta forced a fine save from Costa.
Then Fernandes converted his second from the spot and twice, he went close to a hat-trick.
A volley at the back post saved the feet of goalkeeper Sergio Rochet and an low drive from the edge of the penalty box that beat the ‘keeper only to bounce wide off a post. He deserved more than a groan.
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