Ronaldo’s Homecoming As Sweden Spoils House Party
Portugal played their first International match in Madeira, in sixteen years, as Cristiano Ronaldo’s career turned a complete circle, returning to where it all began. In a night of special significance to the Madrid superstar, what brewed was a mix of positives and negatives.
Ronaldo scored one to make a romantic homecoming to his birthplace, succeeding at his personal front. However, Portugal let away a two goal lead to lose to Sweden 3-2, as the night took a bitter turn towards the tail.
In a fervent atmosphere, Portugal went off to a flyer. Cristiano Ronaldo buried a Gelson Martins cross at the near post early on to take the lead for Portugal. Another Martins cross was turned into his own net by Andreas Granqvist.
With a healthy two goal lead in the foray, things turned sour right after half-time. Viktor Claessen scored twice before a Joao Cancelo own goal to snatch the victory for the Swedes in the second half but it wasn’t a case of completely ruining Ronaldo’s party.
This friendly was described by Fernando Gomes, the Portuguese FA president, as a ‘gift’ to their islander hero — the first time Portugal have played in Madeira for 16 years.
As he paraded the European Championship trophy around the small-scale Estadio do Maritimo pre-match, it certainly looked to be one the Real Madrid forward appreciated.
This was a night where Portugal looked back at Ronaldo’s past and manager Fernando Santos got a look ahead to the nation’s own sparkling future.
In other fronts, it was a special night for Sporting Lisbon’s 21 year old winger, Gelson Martins, as he showed his individual brilliance contributing in both goals. Renato Sanches and Bernardo Silva were among the others to stand out in the night.
Sweden got to show some steel in character and moments of quality of their own, though particularly through the excellent Claesson, and deserved their draw.
The Ronaldo moment arrived at the eighteenth minute. Martins found a couple of yards down the right and pinged over a super cross with the outside of his right foot. Ronaldo, somehow unmarked, touched in the easiest of finishes on the volley.
Following, a number of chances on either end, Sweden conceded again in the thirty fourth minute after another Martins cross was turned into his own net by Andreas Granqvist flummoxing his goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.
The Swedes hit back right after the break, forcing goalkeeper Marafona into a series of saves before Claesson pulled one back, the Krasnodar playmaker getting on to the end of a smart pass from Nyman to find the net.
Ronaldo made his exit to a standing ovation, a rare substitution for him with Ricardo Quaresma his replacement, at the hour mark. Moments later, Claesson had scored his second and equalised for Sweden, sliding in to finish a poorly taken corner, at the near post.
Portugal had switched off and Sweden capitalised on the situation to turn the game on its head. With practically the last kick of the match, Cancelo also turned into his own net to give Sweden the lead and complete the comeback.
But this was still Ronaldo’s night. Madeira’s airport is to be renamed in his honour at a ceremony on Wednesday morning and they might as well have labelled this game with his name too.