Portugal poised for Round of 16, Morocco eliminated
Cristiano Ronaldo's headed goal granted Portugal a 1-0 win and eliminated Morocco from the World Cup yesterday.
The Portugal forward headed in a fourth-minute cross from the right then celebrated by pointing at his chest during a trademark run and soaring leap toward the corner flag at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Buoyed by his hat trick in a 3-3 draw against Spain last Friday, including a spectacular free kick late in the game, Ronaldo scored against Morocco with his first meaningful touch of the match.
He was too strong for marker Manuel Da Costa and found space in the goalmouth to meet Joao Moutinho's cross following a short corner.
Ronaldo had two more free kick chances, each from less than 20 yards (metres). But both were blocked by a solid wall of defenders as the Portuguese ground out a result from an often poor display, much like it did two years ago on its run to the European Championship title.
There were 42 fouls in the match, and only two Portuguese shots on target. Most of the best play came from Morocco, but the North Africans now have no chance of advancing from the group stage after a second straight 1-0 loss.
Morocco had enough scoring chances, nearly all from set pieces, and three came in a five-minute spell early in the second half. Younes Belhanda was twice denied by goalkeeper Rui Patricio's diving saves, and defender Mehdi Benatia scooped a shot over the bar.
In stoppage time, Benatia lifted another shot too high with an even clearer chance.
"Those who know how to be in the penalty box and know how to make plays are the ones who make all the difference," Morocco coach Herve Renard said.
Benatia, a rugged defender who plays for Juventus, led the effort to stop Ronaldo. His hard tackles from behind, however, earned him a yellow card.
There was a separate clash in the penalty area between Morocco winger Noureddine Amrabat and Portugal left back Raphael Guerreiro. Guerreiro raised his shirt to show the referee a set of scratches across the right side of his stomach, and Renard was lectured by American referee Mark Geiger for demanding a video review of the incident.
Portugal look set to advance to the round of 16, while Morocco will certainly be going home.