Cristiano Ronaldo put his club tribulations behind him as he became the first man in history to score at five different World Cups with a penalty against Ghana.
In the week Manchester United terminated his contract by mutual consent following his controversial interview with Piers Morgan, the forward opened the scoring from the spot in Portugal’s first match in Qatar after being challenged by by Mohammed Salisu.
There has been plenty of focus on the relatively low attendances in Qatar so far, but there was a recognisable “siuuu” heard from the stands of Stadium 974 in Doha.
Ronaldo’s latest record is unlikely to be matched by Lionel Messi, who was on the scoresheet in Argentina’s 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, but who failed to score at South Africa 2010 – and so has only scored at four World Cups.
The only player to match Ronaldo’s feat is Brazil Women’s legend Marta, who scored at her fifth World Cup in 2019.
Ronaldo’s strike brings his overall tally at World Cups to eight, having scored once at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 tournaments and netting another four in Russia in 2018.
The 37-year-old is also the oldest player to score for a European country at a World Cup finals, and the second oldest for any nation behind Roger Milla, who scored for Cameroon aged 42.
However, his penalty was not without controversy as he appeared to go down under relatively light contact from Salisu.
“It looks like a dive to me,” said former England defender Matthew Upson on BBC Radio 5 Live. “There’s a small bit of contact but there’s not enough there to knock him down surely?”
Ghana hit back through Andre Ayew – in one sense, something of a local as the former West Ham and Swansea striker now plays for Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd.
The Black Stars were level for just five minutes after Bruno Fernandes set up goals from Felix Sequeira and Rafael Leao.
By the time Ronaldo was taken off – no storming down the tunnel this time, Erik ten Hag will note – Portugal looked to have seen the game out, though Osman Bukari’s header to make it 3-2 set up a nervy finish.