Ronaldo steers Portugal to victory

Cristiano Ronaldo, tipped by many to become Euro 2008’s player of the tournament, scored one goal and made another to give Portugal a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in Group A on Wednesday.

The victory at the Stade de Geneve put Portugal firmly on top of the group with six points and within touching distance of a quarterfinal berth.

With the game level at 1-1, Ronaldo struck in the 63rd minute with a firm shot from a pass by Deco, and then set up Ricardo Quaresma to add the third in stoppage time.

Ronaldo said: ”It’s a very good feeling. We’ve almost reached our first goal, which is to get to the next stage. I’m very happy I was able to contribute with a goal.

”We played well. The Czechs played really well during the first half. It was very hard to penetrate their defence.

”We created a lot of chances and played as a unit. If we keep on playing like that we’ve got a good chance of doing well in this tournament.”

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was also satisfied with his team’s performance.

”I am pleased with the commitment and dedication the team showed,” said the Brazilian.

”We had to suffer, but we played well. This shows that we prepared in the right way.”

Portugal began better than the Czech Republic, and after midfield probing by both teams, they went ahead in their first foray into goalkeeper Petr Cech’s area in the eighth minute.

Ronaldo sped through the defence and tried to round Cech. The goalkeeper blocked with his foot but the ball ran free to Deco on the left who put it in the net at the second attempt.

The goal stung the Czechs into action.

Libor Sionko equalised nine minutes later after the winger had won a corner with a penetrating attacking run down the right. Sionko then powered a header past Ricardo from Jaroslav Plasil’s corner.

The Czech Republic were far more enterprising and sharp than against the Swiss on Saturday, with Marek Matejovsky at the helm and striker Milan Baros trying to unsettle Portugal’s Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho.

The Czechs were strong on the wings, forcing Ronaldo to try attacking down the middle, where he brought a diving save from Cech with a shot from outside the area.

A Ronaldo free kick just before half-time was one of five Portuguese shots on target in the first half to just one for Czech Republic.

The Czechs could have gone ahead minutes after the interval when Matejovsky set up Sionko for a low cross from the right that went across the face of goal untouched.

Close to the hour Cech made a good save from Simao Sabrosa’s point-blank shot as the Czechs sat back soaking up pressure.

Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi was just wide when he glanced a right wing corner with his head towards the far post minutes before Ronaldo struck.

Ronaldo then finished off a breakaway by squaring the ball for Quaresma to steer into an empty net. — Reuters

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