Ronaldo returns as Portugal routs Irish 5-1
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Hugo Almeida scored two first-half goals and Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the starting lineup as Portugal easily beat Ireland 5-1 on Tuesday.
It was the team's final friendly before heading to Brazil for the World Cup.
Ronaldo, sidelined with knee and thigh injuries since May 24 when he helped Real Madrid defeat cross-city rival Atletico for the Champions League title, took his first touch less than a minute after kickoff. He sprinted from midfield before hitting a low shot that Irish keeper David Forde easily handled.
Each time Ronaldo neared the ball, the overwhelmingly partisan Portuguese crowd of 46,063 at MetLife Stadium roared with anticipation. One of his biggest ovations came when he left the game in the 65th minute for Nani, one of four simultaneous substitutions for Portugal.
Portugal scored a mere 121 seconds into the game when Silvestre Varela dribbled down the right and crossed to an unmarked Almeida, who easily headed it in from the edge of the 6-yard box.
The Portuguese doubled their lead in the 20th when Ronaldo sent a ball wide left to Fabio Coentrao. His attempted cross struck the outstretched foot of Irish defender Richard Keough and looped over a hapless Forde before settling in the far side netting for an own-goal.
Portugal dominated possession and chances, including a pair of shots in rapid succession in the 14th minute. Forde did well to parry a blast from Ronaldo first, then recovered to deny Raul Mierelles on the rebound.
Ronaldo nearly had his goal five minutes later, skipping a free kick from 25 yards once off the turf and bouncing it off the right post.
Portugal added a third goal in the 37th. Forde blocked Ronaldo's sharp header, but Almeida reacted to the rebound and volleyed it in.
Ireland produced little offensively in the first half, at best managing a few shots from distance and a weak header by Jon Walters in the 27th minute.
Ireland was far more effective from the outset of the second half and scored in the 52nd. Wesley Hoolahan found James McClean on the right side of the area, and the midfielder cut inside and beat keeper Rui Patricio with a low left-footed shot to the far side.
Portugal restored its three-goal lead on a counter in the 77th. Nani sent in a cross from the left that Vieirinha headed and Forde blocked. But the rebound came straight back to Vieirinha, who volleyed it in.
Vieirinha set up another six minutes later, sending a ball to Coentrao, whose right-footed flick beat Forde past his left shoulder.
The victory finished Portugal with two wins and a draw in its three preparation matches, drawing 0-0 with Greece and beating Mexico 1-0.
The Portuguese open the World Cup on June 16 against Germany and also will face the United States and Ghana in Group G.