Cristiano Ronaldo made European Championship history on two fronts as Portugal staged a late show to begin their campaign with a 3-0 win over Hungary.
Also pitted against world champions France and Germany in the toughest group of the tournament, hitting the ground was viewed as key for Fernando Santos’ side.
It looked as if they would fail to do that in front of over 60,000 fans in Budapest, but Raphael Guerreiro’s deflected strike finally gave them the lead six minutes from time.
And then Ronaldo – who became the first man to play in five different Euros – took centre stage as he broke the tournament goalscoring record with his 10th goal in the competition proper, emphatically dispatching a penalty after Willi Orban had brought down Rafa Silva.
There was a final flourish from the Juventus star, who capped a wonderful move to take his tally to 11 in the second minute of stoppage time.
Diogo Jota endured a frustrating first half, seeing chances go begging as he was denied by Peter Gulacsi in the fifth minute, with the Hungary goalkeeper thwarting the Liverpool forward again in the 40th minute.
But the best opportunity of the first half fell to the eventual man of the hour, Ronaldo mystifyingly blazing over from point-blank range from Bruno Fernandes’ cross two minutes before half-time.
Gulacsi had to produce a strong save shortly after the restart as Pepe met another fine delivery from Fernandes, unsurprisingly Portugal’s creator-in-chief.
Fernandes then had Gulacsi scrambling to keep out a long-range effort before Szabolcs Schon put the ball in the net at the other end, only for Hungary’s rapturous celebrations to be cut short by the offside flag.
And their hearts were broken in the 84th minute as Guerreiro’s strike deflected off the left leg of Orban and into the bottom-left corner.
The game was over as a contest as Ronaldo stepped up to go beyond Michel Platini for goals in the European Championship finals, slotting into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards.
Gloss to the scoreline was then applied in stylish fashion as Ronaldo played a superb one-two with Rafa before rounding a helpless Gulacsi and firing into an empty net.
What does it mean? Portugal show their title mettle
For the vast majority of the contest, it looked like being an underwhelming start to Portugal’s title defence as they wasted three opportunities in the first half and generally laboured in attempting to break down Hungary thereafter.
But their determination was rewarded by a stroke of good fortune with the deflection for Guerreiro’s opener, which was followed 177 seconds later by Ronaldo’s historic spot-kick. His second saw Portugal become the first side to score three goals in the final 10 minutes of a European Championship game in a demonstration of the fortitude that will be required for them to get through this group and reach the latter stages of the tournament.
Ronaldo’s record-breaking day
To Hungary’s credit, Ronaldo’s influence was limited for much of the contest. He had the fewest touches (49) of any Portugal outfield player to start the game, while his missed chance in the first half had the third-highest xG value (0.66) of any opportunity in the match.
But, as so many defenders have found out over the years, he is a player you just cannot keep down and he proved that by following an excellent penalty with one of the best team goals of the tournament, which added another record to the list as the 36-year-old became the oldest player to score a brace in the European Championship finals.
Orban was responsible for so much of Hungary’s good work in frustrating Portugal, making a game-high seven clearances, but it was he who also played a key role in their downfall. He had an unfortunate part in the goal that broke the deadlock and then made the ill-advised decision to pull down Rafa, allowing Ronaldo to settle a game from which the Group F minnows had looked set to take a point.
– Portugal equalled their largest margin of victory at the European Championships, with their previous wins by three goals coming in 1996 (3-0 v Croatia) and 2000 (3-0 v Germany).
– Hungary are winless in their last four games at the Euros (D2 L2), conceding at least three goals in each of the last three (two of those against Portugal).
– Portugal won their opening fixture at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) for the first time since Euro 2008, having been winless in each of their previous five coming into this match (D3 L2).
– This was Cristiano Ronaldo’s 39th appearance at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) for Portugal, an all-time record for a European player, overtaking Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 38 appearances for Germany.
Hungary welcome France to the Puskas Arena on Saturday, when Portugal have a blockbuster clash with Germany in Munich.
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