Ronaldo returns as Portugal tops Ireland in final World Cup tune-up match
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Cristiano Ronaldo returned in Portugal’s final World Cup tune-up match, a 5-1 win at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday.
Ronaldo started the match after missing Portugal’s last two underwhelming preparation games, a 0-0 draw with Greece on May 31 and a 1-0 victory over Mexico on Friday. Ronaldo has been dealing with tendinosis in his left knee in addition to a thigh injury, but returned to training on Saturday. On Tuesday the Ballon d’Or holder played 65 minutes, giving Portugal a confidence boost ahead of Monday’s Group G opener against Germany.
Ronaldo was involved in creating two of the goals, and Portugal needed just over two minutes to get on the board. Silvestre Varela sent in a cross from the right flank in the 3rd minute and Hugo Almeida rose to nod it in for Portugal’s opener.
Varela would play provider and Almeida the goal-scorer again for Portugal’s third goal in the 37th minute after Ireland goalkeeper David Forde spilled Ronaldo’s initial header from the cross.
Though he looked timid to start the match -- his first since winning the UEFA Champions League title with Real Madrid on May 24th -- Ronaldo still proved dangerous, and his vision paid off in the 20th minute. The winger combined with Fábio Coentrão on the left flank, back-heeling the ball to Coentrão, whose cross deflected off Ireland defender Richard Keough and into the net for an own goal.
Coentrão finally made the score sheet in the 83rd minute when he overlapped Nani and finished the through ball from the second-half substitute. The assist was Nani’s second in six minutes after entering the match in the 65th minute, replacing Ronaldo as the left forward.
Ireland salvaged a consolation goal in the 52nd minute when forward James McClean caught Portugal’s defense napping.
Tuesday also marked the return of midfielder Raul Meirelles and defender Pepe, completing a trio of major returns for Portugal as they prepare for Germany in less than a week.