As It Happened: Portugal Struggle To Hold On After Early Ronaldo Strike

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As It Happened: Portugal Struggle To Hold On After Early Ronaldo Strike
Portugal
1 0
Morocco

This is it for Portugal - Morocco live commentary from me, Jakub Bobro. Be sure to follow the live commentary of Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia by Jordan Cronin.

It was an ugly win for Portugal. Morocco were the better, more attacking side in both of their matches, but get eliminated without scoring a goal. Their tears water the pitch of Luzhniki Stadium, and they were unable to get anything today despite an impressive performance. Though they cannot advance as a group, this performance will have certainly turned heads of managers who watched and might help some players earn moves. For Portugal, they must be disappointed with the poor performance but also encouraged that they are able to win without playing their best,

Full time!

90+5: Portugal held onto the ball for a while in the opposition half, and this is probably the end.

90+3: A huge chance from Benatia! Ball bounces down to him, turns the defender well but can't get it on target.

90+1: Pepe goes down as if shot after a pat on the back from Benatia, they get into a subsequent altercation that had to be separated by the referee.

Five minutes added!

90: Amrabat flicks the ball on for Ziyach in the box, but his shot is deflected wide.

88: Substitution: Joao Moutinho is taken off for Adrien Silva.

86: Substitution: Faycal Fajr comes on for Karim El Ahmadi as Morocco's last substituted.

85: Ronaldo hits only the wall and asks for VAR after taking a tumble because of a touch from Amrabat. Should be a yellow.

84: A lapse in concentration from Benatia and he takes down Ronaldo just outside the box. Half expected him to get his second yellow here. Ronaldo probably to take it.

80: Morocco have enclosed Portugal in their half and keep trying to find holes in the defense.

78: Moutinho fouls Ziyach and Morocco get another free kick opportunity. Ziyach finds Benatia on the run, but the centre-back can't head it on target.

75: Younes Belhanda comes off for Mehdi Carcela

73: There's been some nice counter-attacking football as Portugal seem energised with the Fernandes substitution.

69: Substitution: Khalid Boutaib off for Ayoub El Kaabi and Joao Mario is off for Bruno Fernandes.

67: A free kick from a dangerous distance as Guerreiro pulls down Boussoufa. Pepe ran down to the manager and screamed at him to make a change. Ziyach lifted the free kick over the ball but the ball didn't get down in time.

64: Morocco are becoming more aware that they have less than 30 minutes to change the score. A loss would eliminate them. They keep coming forward with more players and they certainly deserve a goal for this performance.

60: A huge chance for Mehdi Benatia! Ball played in after a free kick, Benatia takes a touch and fires it over the bar.

59: Substitution: Gelson Martins comes on for Bernardo Silva, giving Portugal some fresh legs.

57: An incredible save from Patricio again! Ziyech plays the ball in off of a free kick, Belhanda heads it on target but denied by Patricio. Wolves must be really pleased with signing him for free this summer.

55: Belhanda produces a nice shot just outside of the box after a pass from Amrabat, but Patricio saves.

54: Portugal have sent more players to defend including the striker Guedes, so Morocco have not seemed as dangerous in this second half. 

51: A quick free kick after Ronaldo gets fouled by Benatia (again). Portugal get forward quickly and line the ball up for Ronaldo who fires it over the bar.

48: A short corner from Portugal and Guerreiro whips the ball in for Fonte who heads it wide.

The second half has kicked off!

Portugal are still ahead 1-0, but after scoring their goal, Morocco have been dominating the game. Portugal have only had one chance outside of set pieces, and Munir produced an incredible save on Guedes. Fernando Santos has to change something for Portugal, or Morocco will score sooner or later.

Halftime!

45+1: Guerreiro takes down Amrabat near the corner flag and they have a good chance to tie it up. Belhanda heads it just wide, right by Benatia, who couldn't react quickly enough and deflect Belhanda's header into the net.

3 minutes of injury time!

44: Morocco get another cross from inside the box, but the centre-backs hold solid. Amrabat has been very efficient in getting past Guerreiro though, or getting Dirar on the overlap.

40: Mehdi Benatia gets a yellow for another foul on Ronaldo.

39: A huge chance for Portugal as Ronaldo flicks the ball on for Guedes who only had the keeper to beat, but Munir punched it out.

36: Morocco just keep on coming and Portugal are unable to answer. The Portuguese counter-attacks have mostly been inefficient.

32: Ronaldo only hits the wall.

30: Boutaib has now gone down in the box after an aerial challenge with Fonte. Portugal counter right away and Joao Mario gets fouled just outside of the box.

28: Havre Renard, Morocco's coach, gets warned for aggressively asking the fourth official for VAR. Guerreiro's shirt was clearly pulled and he proves it by showing the scratches from Amrabat.

26: Amrabat is pulled down by Guerreiro in the box, but no call by the referee.

25: Ronaldo leaves a foot hanging and gets fouled by Benatia who is warned.

23:  Ziyach's shot from afar does not trouble Patricio. Portugal have struggled to create any opportunities in the attack. Morocco have been the better team so far.

19: Amrabat gets Dirar into the box who tries to pick out a man with a low cross, but there is a foul in the box from Morocco.

18: As Amrabat rips off the headgear, Ziyech works the ball into the box, but his shot gets blocked.

16: Morocco have played some nice box-to-box football since they went behind, attacking in numbers and pressing but also defending responsibly. How long can they keep up this high tempo game? 

12: Benatia gave Patricio some trouble with a powerful header after a corner, but holds onto it.

9: Guerreiro took a trip out of left-back all the way to the box. He gave the ball to Ronaldo, who took a shot past two defenders but wide.

7:  Morocco will now have to open this game up. A draw doesn't do them any good, they have to go for a win here.

4: Ronaldo gets his fourth of the tournament. He loses his man in the box after a Bernardo Silva corner and doesn't give the keeper a chance.

GOAL!!!!!!! CRISTIANO RONALDO OPENS THE SCORING!!

1: And the first opportunity is surprisingly for Morocco. After Benatia dispossessed Ronaldo, they had an attacking spell, looking for an opportunity. The ball was crossed in, but Boutaib headed it over the bar.

And the game has kicked-off!

During these anthems, I just noticed that Nordin Amrabat is wearing Peter Cech-esque helmet after his concussion against Iran.

And the teams walk out, we'll hear some anthems shortly!

Morocco make a couple of changes as well. Noureddine Amrabat moves up from right-back to right-midfield. Hakim Ziyech is switching over to left midfield, putting Nabil Dirar at right back. Manuel Da Costa comes in for Ghanem Saiss at centre-back and Khalid Boutaib replaces Ayoub El Kaabi as the striker.

Portugal make only one change from their 3-3 draw against Spain. Joao Mario is in for Bruno Fernandes. It's quite surprising to see Goncalo Guedes hold onto his starting spot as he did not impress last time out.

Morocco XI: Munir; Dirar, Benatia, Da Costa, Hakimi; El Ahmadi, Boussoufa; Amrabat, Belhanda, Ziyech; Boutaib.

Portugal XI: Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; B. Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Mario; Guedes, Ronaldo.

How will they line up? I expect Morocco to keep the lineup the same, as there aren't that many quality options to replace the starting XI: Munir; Amrabat, Benatia, Saiss, Hakimi; El Ahmadi, Boussoufa; Ziyech, Belhanda, Harit; El Kaabi.

How will they line up? Portugal will want to keep most of the group together from the Spain match, but there were certainly a few weak links that could be improved upon: Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Alves, Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Quaresma; Andre Silva, Ronaldo.

A huge headline overall is the fact that disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter will attend this game. Blatter was personally invited by Russian president Vladimir Putin, despite Blatter's ban on all football-related acitivity.

Portuguese media are pretty optimistic about the national team after the draw with Spain. The headlines are dominated with chat about whether Ronaldo can lead Portugal to glory like in EURO 2016.

Luzhniki Stadium, the sporting crown jewel of Moscow, will host this match. This will be the third of seven played in this venue, the last of which will be the final. Both of the previous matches (Russia - Saudi Arabia, Germany - Mexico) were sold out all 78,011 seats.

Morocco are, without a shadow of a doubt, kicking themselves for their performance against Iran. They were talked about as possibly the best African side in the tournament, but a 0-1 opening loss has probably thwarted any chances of going through. Morocco failed to break down Iran, and a late own goal broke their hearts. However, they still have some impact players such as Ziyech or Belhanda, and will definitely be looking to bounce back.

Portugal's World Cup started with a mad 3-3 draw against Spain. For those of you who've been living under a rock the past week, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hattrick, including a beautiful free kick in added time. It was among the best World Cup matches I've ever seen, and a superhero-like performance from Ronaldo. However, the Portugal team overall did not impress.

Portugal and Morocco have faced off only once-- in the 1986 World Cup. Morocco upset Portugal 3-1, but that sort of result would be quite unlikely tomorrow. Just to date that win, one of the Portuguese keepers at that tournament was born in 1947.

Hello and welcome to VAVEL UK's live minute-by-minute match coverage and commentary. Today, Saturday 16th June 2018, sees Portugal face off with Morocco in the 2018 World Cup. This afternoon's game kicks off at 13:00 GMT, kicking off the day. Until then - we'll have plenty of pre-match build-up and analysis from me, Jakub Bobro. Make sure you stay following.