The last two winners of the European Cup met today in Sochi for a high-stakes edition of the Iberian derby. The hard-fought, high-intensity clash finished in a 3-3 draw between two sides favored to advance from Group B.
The whistle had barely blown before the fireworks began. Real Madrid star Ronaldo got Portugal on the board with a well-struck penalty after being fouled by Spain’s Nacho in just the fourth minute of play. Diego Costa leveled for Spain in the 24th minute after seizing possession of a pass near the box, dribbling toward the middle of the pitch and slotting home the equalizer past two defenders and Portuguese keeper Rui Patrício. Not to be outdone, Ronaldo blasted a left-footed shot off Spanish star goalie David De Gea in the 44th minute to put Portugal in the lead heading into the break.
The Spaniards didn’t waste time in the second half as Diego Costa leveled the match in the 55th minute with a shot from close-range off a Sergio Busquets header. Before either side had settled down from Costa’s goal, Nacho put Spain ahead 3-2 with a beautiful blast in the 58th minute from just outside the penalty area. The action ebbed and flowed from that point until the 88th minute when Gerard Piqué picked up an unnecessary foul on Ronaldo just outside the area. Ronaldo lined up in his traditional wide stance behind the free kick as De Gea arranged his wall of defenders. At the whistle, Ronaldo curled a gorgeous bending ball into the back of the righthand side of the net for the equalizer, leaving De Gea flat-footed in disbelief and the Portuguese going wild.
The match ended in a draw, with Portugal pleased with the point and Spain feeling they had let three points slip away.
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The rivals were both placed in Group B for the tournament, guaranteeing an early face-off for group primacy. This was their second meeting at the World Cup, with Spain triumphing 1-0 in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup. Spain entered the game a slight favorite, but was plagued with uncertainty after the Spanish Soccer Federation dismissed its coach Julen Lopetegui after the manager accepted an offer to manage Real Madrid. The national team’s sports director Fernando Hierro took over on short notice, having only a couple of seasons of managerial experience under his belt.
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