Cristiano Ronaldo didn't take long to provide an encore.
After a heroic hat trick to salvage Portugal's 3-3 draw vs. Spain, Ronaldo scored early to lead his nation to a 1-0 win over a wasteful Morocco in the teams' second match of Group B play at the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday. The win ensures that Portugal and one of Iran or Spain will finish with at least four points, meaning that Morocco, with no points from two games, has become the first side eliminated from the World Cup.
Both sides entered the day looking up at Iran in the group table, something that Morocco was responsible for following Aziz Bouhaddouz's 95th-minute own goal in the opener. Morocco had its chances against Iran but couldn't convert, and it proved to be another wasteful match for Herve Renard side against Portugal.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, wasted little time in getting back on the board. Portugal earned a corner kick in the fourth minute, and off the short corner taken by Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho served a ball into the center of the box, where Ronaldo found space and powered a header home for his World Cup-leading fourth goal of the tournament.
Ronaldo nearly had his second in the ninth minute, taking a pass from Raphael Guerreiro, turning on his defender and pushing a right-footed shot just beyond the far post.
The goal gave Ronaldo 85 for his international career, snapping a tie with Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas for the second-most all time. Only Iranian Ali Daei (109) has more.
Despite the deficit, Morocco actually had the better of the run of play in the opening 20 minutes, creating plenty of dangerous opportunities–much like it did against Iran. The end product remained absent, though, with Portugal continuing to lead.
Morocco had a couple of penalty shouts go unheard prior to the half-hour mark. On one, Guerreiro and Nordin Amrabat–playing just days after being concussed–were yanking each other as both went down in the Portugal box, something that American referee Mark Geiger explained to Renard. A few moments later, Jose Fonte cleared through a Morocco forward while both went for a header in the Portugal box, but that, too, went uncalled.
Portugal nearly got its second as the first half came to an end, but Goncalo Guedes's chance from in close after a chipped pass from Ronaldo was parried away by Mounir Mohamedi before being cleared to safety.
Portugal started the second half going in search of an insurance goal, and it nearly came twice in the opening five minutes. Fonte had a clear header of a corner kick go wide of the mark, and Guedes's unintentional layoff pass spring Ronaldo for a wide-open look some 16 yards from goal, but he powered his blast over the bar.
Morocco took back its handle on the game and carved out a great chance in the 55th minute, with Younes Belhanda whipping in a powerful shot from just inside the box, but goalkeeper Rui Patricio caught it cleanly to thwart the opportunity.
The Portugal backstop denied Belhanda moments later off a Morocco free kick, doing so in sensational fashion. Belhanda flicked on a header that was goal-bound, but Patricio acrobatically got down to his right and pawed the ball around the post to safety.
Ronaldo had a chance to ice it from 19 yards after winning a free kick, but he blasted his opportunity into the wall. On the rebound, Ronaldo won the ball and took the slightest of hits to his shin, making a meal out of it and going to ground demanding a PK. Geiger paid no mind to it, though, as play continued.
Hakim Ziyech nearly came up with an equalizer for Morocco in the 90th minute. The Ajax star carved his way into the Portugal box and let a left-footed blast go, but it was blocked and put out for a corner, which came to nothing.
Another golden chance came to Morocco three minutes into stoppage time, when Mehdi Benatia had the ball fall to his feet within 10 yards of the goal, but the Juventus defender put his wide open shot well over the bar, summing up Morocco's day in the process. Loads of opportunity, but nothing to show for it.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cédric Soares (Southampton), José Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mário Rui (Nápoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto), Rúben Dias (Benfica)
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), João Mário (West Ham), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv), William Carvalho (Sporting)
Forwards: André Silva (Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Gonçalo Guedes (Valência), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)
Manager: Fernando Santos
Goalkeepers: Mounir Mohamedi (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)
Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga)
Manager: Herve Renard