Cristiano Ronaldo shines in return for Portugal
Brasilia: Cristiano Ronaldo provided Portugal with a major confidence boost ahead of the World Cup when he made a successful return from injury on Tuesday.
Playing his first match since the Champions League final, Ronaldo`s presence helped reignite Portugal`s stuttering attack in a 5-1 romp over Ireland at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Ronaldo was not among the scorers and was substituted after 64 minutes but showed glimpses of his best and came through the friendly unscathed after missing his country`s last two warm-up matches because of problems with his left knee and right thigh.
The World Player of the Year almost scored in the 18th minute with a dipping free kick that hit the post and again in the 37th minute with a header he directed straight at Irish goalkeeper David Forde.
Hugo Almeida pounced on Forde`s rebound to register the second of his two first-half strikes as the Europeans rediscovered their scoring touch after managing just one goal in their two previous friendlies against Mexico and Greece.
Almeida opened the scoring in the third minute when he climbed above the defence and headed a cross from Silvestre Varela into the back of the net.
Portugal scored again in the 20th minute when Fabio Coentrao fired in a low shot from the left that took a wicked deflection off Irish defender Richard Keogh straight over Forde`s head.
Trailing 3-0 at halftime, Ireland pulled one back early in the second half when Wesley Hoolahan took a quick free kick and James McClean turned inside and rifled a shot from his left foot into the corner.
But Portugal dominated the rest of the match, banging in two more goals against an Irish side that failed to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. Substitute Vierinha scored in the 77th minute when Forde initially saved his header but parried the ball straight back to him.
Then Coentrao finished off the rout when he clinically finished off an inch-perfect pass from Nani, who played superbly off the bench and had a late back-heeled goal disallowed for offside.
Midfielder Raul Meireles, who has had a thigh problem, also made his return in another welcome boost for Portugal who are drawn in the same group as Germany, Ghana and the United States for the World Cup, which starts in Brazil on Thursday.