Low-flying Ronaldo deals first blow in playoff

Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:56pm EST
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By Daniel Alvarenga

LISBON (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo struck the first blow in his personal duel with Zlatan Ibrahimovic when his late flying header gave Portugal a 1-0 win over Sweden in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff on Friday.

Neither of the big-name players contributed much to a feisty encounter until Ronaldo stooped to meet Miguel Veloso's pinpoint cross from the left with an intelligent header in the 82nd minute.

Until then Ronaldo had struggled against a massed Swedish defense, wasted two free kicks by firing into the wall and been booked shortly before his goal for a foul on goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson as his frustration boiled over.

Sweden had several chances in the first half before Portugal took control after the break at the Luz stadium, gaining the upper hand for Tuesday's second leg in Stockholm.

"We would have been very happy with a draw," Sweden coach Erik Hamren told TV4. "We played a good game defensively, the goal was unnecessary, we were careless with that cross."

Portugal could have gone ahead in the opening minutes when Raul Meireles put Joao Moutinho clean through only for the Monaco midfielder to shoot into the side-netting.

The Swedes then enjoyed a brief period of dominance and came close when Johan Elmander just failed to hit the target from a pinpoint cross by right back Mikael Lustig.

"We created a great early chance and Sweden hit back. But in the second half it was one way for us," Portugal coach Paulo Bento told reporters.   Continued...

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal against Sweden during his 2014 World Cup first leg qualifying playoff soccer match at Luz stadium in Lisbon November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante