SOCHI: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo curled in a sizzling late free-kick to strike the first hat-trick of the 2018 World Cup and grab his side a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain on Friday as the Group B blockbuster lived up to the hype.
Spain defender Nacho Fernandez tripped Ronaldo to give away a penalty in the fourth minute which his Real Madrid team-mate dispatched but Diego Costa leveled for Spain in the 24th with a blistering strike, displaying his notorious brute force as well as his remarkable skill to get past the Portugal defense.
Costa had tangled with opposing defender Pepe in the build-up to the goal, which was the first at a World Cup to be given after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR), but Ronaldo pulled the European champions ahead again right before halftime with a shot that squeezed under David de Gea.
Costa clattered home another equalizer in the 55th while Nacho's stunning first goal for his country three minutes later looked to have given Spain a galvanizing victory. Their preparations were thrown into disarray two days before when coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked for agreeing to join Real Madrid behind the Spanish soccer federation`s back.
But Ronaldo, who became the first player to score in eight consecutive major international tournaments, yet again delivered on the big occasion with his expertly taken set-piece to level for the Euro 2016 winners and inflict more pain on Spain in a chaotic week for the 2010 world champions.