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Confederations Cup: Ronaldo sets Portugal on way to semis; Mexico oust Russia

Last updated on: June 25, 2017 10:37 IST

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores his sides first goal from the penalty spot during the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Group A match against New Zealand. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

European champions Portugal comfortably dispatched New Zealand 4-0 to reach the Confederations Cup semi-finals on Saturday after Cristiano Ronaldo set them on their way with a penalty.

Portugal's all-time leading scorer swept the ball home in the 33rd minute, his 75th goal for his country, and Bernardo Silva added the second four minutes later.

A solo effort from Andre Silva, his eighth goal in 11 appearances, in the 80th minute and a stoppage-time goal from substitute Nani completed the scoring.

It was a typically efficient performance from Portugal who never looked in real danger despite a sluggish start.

However, it was not all good news as Bernardo Silva went off injured at halftime, while a needless and reckless challenge from Pepe, with his side 2-0 up, earned the controversial central defender his second yellow card of the tournament, ruling him out of Wednesday's semi-final.

"It was an odd game - we were in control, but they started creating problems, and if it had got back to 2-1, it could have got complicated," said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who helped Unterhaching win promotion from the German fourth division last season, kept the score down with a superb second-half display.

The Oceania champions were far from disgraced but have now competed in the tournament four times without winning a game and have an overall record of 11 defeats and a draw in 12 matches.

Even so, coach Anthony Hudson was proud of his side, who refused to shut up shop in the second half.

"We know we've played some really good football at times. We never stopped. We created chances, we put them under pressure, so we could have got a little more out of this tournament," he told reporters.

"This team are on the right path, they have got great character, great belief and it's a young team moving in the right direction."

Portugal topped Group A with seven points from three games, ahead of Mexico on goal difference after the CONCACAF champions beat hosts Russia 2-1. New Zealand finished bottom of the group after losing all three games.

Ronaldo had already headed against the crossbar before firing Portugal ahead after Danilo went tumbling under a challenge from two defenders and the referee pointed to the spot without asking for a video replay.

Bernardo Silva turned Eliseu's low cross into the net four minutes later, although he suffered a knock on the ankle in the process.

Marinovic made impressive saves to deny Ronaldo, Andre Silva and Nani but was powerless stop Andre Silva when he collected the ball on the halfway line, ran at two defenders who backed off, and fired his shot into the far corner.

Nani completed the scoring with his 25th international goal.

Mexico knock out Confederations Cup hosts Russia

Mexico

IMAGE: Mexico players celebrate their 2-1 victory while Viktor Vasin of Russia shows dejection. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images.

Mexico winger Hirving Lozano took advantage of an awful mix-up in the Russian defence to score an extraordinary goal which gave his side a 2-1 win and knocked the Confederations Cup hosts out of the tournament.

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev completely mis-read the situation after Hector Herrera sent a looping clearance 80 metres downfield from the edge of the Mexican area seven minutes into the second half.

The ball bounced once about 25 metres from the Russian goal and, as Akinfeev and his defence dallied, Lozano bravely nipped in to head the ball over the goalkeeper from the edge of the area to send the CONCACAF champions into the semi-finals.

Russia had raised the hopes of their fans by taking a first-half lead through Alexander Samedov but were quickly pegged back by Nestor Araujo's equaliser on the half hour.

Russia's early exit from was another setback for next year's World Cup hosts who also went out of last year's European Championship at the group stage, when they failed to win a game and were regarded by many as the worst team in the tournament.

Russia's afternoon was completed in the 68th minute after Yury Zhirkov was sent off for elbowing and they were only saved further embarrassment by the video assistant referee who disallowed a third Mexican goal for offside.

The video replay was also used in the 17th minute after Russian forward Fedor Smolov went down in the box after he appeared to come into contact with Araujo but the referee ruled against a penalty.

Mexico dominated possession early on but Russia went ahead fortuitously when Samedov beat goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa just inside the far post after Mexico had failed to clear a header and midfielder Aleksandr Erokhin missed the ball as he was trying to shoot.

Mexico defender Nestor Araujo equalised in the 30th minute with a looping header.

The crowd seemed to sense that Russia had missed their chance and Lozano's freak equaliser confirmed their worst fears.

Mexico finished second in Group A on seven points, behind Portugal on goal difference. Russia were third with three.

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchisov, a former national team goalkeeper, backed Akinfeev.

"Every goalkeeper is entitled to commit mistakes and it is something you have to live with," he told reporters. "Life will go on, this is sport and I am convinced he will remain on the national team and make his fans happy.

"Passions are running high so it's not the time to come to any conclusions," he added. "I hope the players will use the experience to grow and develop."

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