By 90Min
June 20, 2018

Portugal have taken one step closer to the Last 16 of the World Cup after the in-form Cristiano Ronaldo led his side to a scrappy 1-0 victory over Morocco, temporarily taking them to the top of Group B.  

Despite making the reigning European Champions look inferior for much of the encounter in Moscow, the Lions of the Atlas have been handed an early exit from the 2018 competition, after failing to take a point from either of their opening games. 

The spirited and unrelenting Morocco outfit were ultimately unable to prolong their chances of progressing in the tournament as Ronaldo scored his 4th goal of the 2018 World Cup.

Stu Forster/GettyImages

With Morocco needing to avoid defeat to ensure there was no premature exit from their first World Cup in 20-years following their opening loss to Iran, the Lions of the Atlas shot out of the blocks as they sought to ask early questions of their oppositions' defence. 

Portugal's superstar had other ideas, however, as a series of corners tested Morocco's resolve and ultimately led to the breakthrough in the fifth minute.

Manuel da Costa had remarkably eased off Ronaldo in the penalty area which gave the Real Madrid striker a clear path to powerfully head home from eight yards out - securing his fourth of the competition and cementing his position as the second highest international goalscorer of all time (85).

Stu Forster/GettyImages

A one goal deficit could have easily been doubled merely moments later after Raphael Guerreiro powered through the middle of the park, laying it on to Ronaldo who spun onto his deadly right foot only to scuff the shot marginally wide of the post.

Not to be deterred, Morocco continued to press and pose a threat moving forward as they easily navigated through Portugal's midfield and defence for the remainder of the half; quickly making the European Champions look second best.

The pressure from the Moroccan side resulted in a handful of goal scoring opportunities, with the ease of deliveries from out wide by Nordin Amrabat likely to have sounded the alarm bells for Fernando Santos on the touchline. 

Whilst the Selecao das Quinas only escaped without serious punishment due to lack of quality in Morocco's final ball, Goncalo Guedes had the chance to rub salt in the Lions of the Atlas's wounds on the stroke of half time. The PSG forward however, saw his volley superbly saved by Nasreen Mohamedi from close range. 

After refusing to grow frustrated with a lack of reward for effort, Morocco emerged from the break with renewed vigour as their World Cup dreams hung in the balance; whilst Portugal continued to live dangerously after failing to tighten their defensive play.

Two stunning saves in as many minutes from Portugal stopper, and Wolverhampton's newest signing, Rui Patrício ensured the scoreline remained in the Quinas' favour - including a desperate full stretch save from a Mbark Boussoufa's header which was destined for the bottom corner. 

Portugal v Morocco: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Portugal were penned in their own half for much of the second term and although they were seemingly content to absorb the pressure from their counterparts, Morocco continually let them off the hook with their wastefulness in front of goal.

With the pressure of the clock ticking ever closer to the conclusion of the game, the desperation and will to equalise failed to be reflected with a killer ball on the scoreboard for Morocco, as Ronaldo's early goal proved enough for the Portuguese to squeeze past Hevre Renard's men. 

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