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Lively Ronaldo rouses Portugal

Saturday, 4 September 2004

By Jevgenijs Ravdins at the Skonto stadium

[1] Two goals in a minute earned UEFA EURO 2004™ runners-up Portugal three FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 3 points in Riga despite a hard-working Latvian perfomance.

Ronaldo stars

[2] Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal's star and had a hand in both goals, crossing for Pauleta to head the second just moments after opening the scoring himself shortly before the hour.

Bright start

[3] The match opened brightly, with Latvia's EURO 2004™ star Maris Verpakovskis sliding in at the near post to meet a low cross by the impressive Andrejs Prohorenkovs. His effort, which flashed over goalkeeper Ricardo's crossbar, was to prove the home side's best chance.

Few chances

[4] However, both sides contributed fully to an open, frenetic first half, with Portugal's intricate passing matched by Latvia's pace on the break. Neither could craft a clear opening, however, with Aleksandrs Kolinko hardly tested in the Latvian goal despite some lengthy spells of Portuguese possession.

Latvian breakthrough

[5] As in the first half, Latvia opened the second period brightly. But when Imants Bleidelis raced onto Prohorenkovs' through-ball, there was no one to convert the midfield player's intelligent pull-back.

Scrambled opener

[6] On 58 minutes, a Maniche cross was bounced and parried around the Latvian box. Ronaldo was involved in the ensuing scramble before Jorge Andrade's volley was blocked by Zemlinskis. But it was the Manchester United FC midfield player who reacted decisively when the ball fell to him a second time, slamming it in from 15 metres.

Double whammy

[7] Latvia were visibly stunned and from the restart they immediately conceded possession to the livewire goalscorer. Ronaldo duly crossed for Pauleta to head a second goal that effectively made the points safe.

Starkovs sent off

[8] Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs was subsequently sent from the dugout by the fourth official for protesting that the first goal should have been disallowed for handball. His side subsequently struggled hard but were unable to find a way back into the game.

Chance wasted

[9] Portugal couldand shouldhave made it three when Luís Boa Morte was released by Deco. His first effort was saved well by Kolinko, but the rebound fell kindly for the striker, only for him to hesitate, stumble and steer his second chance wide. Portugal had already done enough to secure the victory, however, and next play Estonia on Wednesday with Lativa travelling to Luxembourg the same night.

Cristiano Ronaldo was in fine form