Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein: Record-breaking Ronaldo at the double
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated becoming the most-capped men's player of all time with a double as Portugal thrashed Liechtenstein 4-0 in Roberto Martinez's first game.
Ronaldo scored just once at last year's World Cup and there had been doubts over whether he would return for Portugal's Euro 2024 qualification campaign.
But having been named as captain in Martinez's starting XI for Thursday's match at Estadio Jose Alvalade, Ronaldo scored twice in the space of 12 minutes — a cool penalty followed by a wicked free-kick — to help cap an emphatic win and mark his record appearance in style.
Ronaldo's goals followed strikes from Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva as Portugal got off to the simplest of starts in Group J.
Liechtenstein's resistance lasted just eight minutes. The visitors failed to clear their lines following Bruno Fernandes' corner and Cancelo's deflected strike from the edge of the area squirmed under Benjamin Buchel.
Ronaldo squandered two golden opportunities to extend Portugal's lead, firing over when one-on-one with Buchel before sending a free header wide.
Portugal's wait for a second ended 68 seconds after the restart, Silva on hand to tuck home after a cross was blocked into his path, and Ronaldo had his goal four minutes later.
Jens Hofer clumsily felled Cancelo, with Ronaldo drilling the resultant penalty into the bottom-left corner.
The offside flag cut Ronaldo's celebrations short when he prodded in from close range but a superb 63rd-minute free-kick had too much power on it for Buchel.
There was no hat-trick for Ronaldo, who made way in the 78th minute, with the job done for new boss Martinez.
What does it mean? Martinez's start as easy as they come
Martinez was straight into a new job after parting company with Belgium following the Red Devils' early World Cup exit, replacing Fernando Santos, whose time with Portugal seemed to have reached its natural conclusion following that 1-0 defeat to Morocco in Qatar.
The Spaniard could hardly have asked for an easier start. Liechtenstein are ranked 198th in the world by FIFA — Portugal are ninth — and have now lost their last 14 matches. In fact, they have not won a game since October 2020.
Portugal duly dominated, having 35 attempts, getting 11 on target, and accumulating an expected goals (xG) of 3.9 to their opponents' 0.03 from two shots. There will be tougher tests to come, that is for sure.
Another Ronaldo record, more Ronaldo goals
Ronaldo considered retiring from international football in the wake of Portugal's World Cup exit, though he is seemingly going to stick around for one more major tournament — he will be 39 by the time Euro 2024 comes around.
There is now yet another record for Ronaldo to add to his collection, with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner having overtaken Bader Al-Mutawa (Kuwait) as the most capped men's player of all time.
He is international football's record goalscorer, too, and despite his first-half misses, took his tally to 120 by adding further gloss to what was predictably a routine Portugal win.
Buchel's mixed bag
It was always likely to be a thankless task for Liechtenstein goalkeeper Buchel, though he did not make it any easier for himself with his fumble for Cancelo's opener.
He atoned somewhat with sharp stops from Joao Felix and Joao Palhinha, while he almost got down to Ronaldo's penalty having guessed the right way. However, a better goalkeeper would surely have done more to tip the Portugal captain’s free-kick over, even though it was hit brilliantly.
Such was Portugal’s dominance, Buchel still finished with seven saves. Rui Patricio, in contrast, had to make just one.
Portugal should have no trouble making it two wins from two in Group J, with Luxembourg next up on Sunday. Liechtenstein host Iceland.