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Ronaldo Leaves It Late

Portugal will take a 1-0 lead into the second-leg World Cup Playoff when they visit Sweden after beating their opponents thanks to a solitary Cristiano Ronaldo goal at the Estádio da Luz.

Portugal wasted a glorious early opportunity to open the scoring in the play-off first-leg tie when Raul Meireles found Joao Moutinho, who rounded Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson but the midfielder was forced wide, and could only find the side netting from a tight angle with just five minutes played.

A minute later and Sweden too should have scored, fullback Lustig broke down the right and whipped in a delightful ball for Johan Elmander, but the striker could only toe-poke the ball wide.

Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio pulled off the first save of the game in the 20th minute, when he did well to dive low to his right and keep out a Sebastian Larsson left-footed effort that was heading for the bottom corner after a clever skipped pass by skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Sweden then came close again two minutes later when Kim Kallstrom curled a free-kick from just outside the box which went to the left of Patricio’s post.

The Swedes did well to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet and the Real Madrid superstar’s only half-chance came five minutes before the end of the first half, when the Portugal captain got on the end of a corner which he could not keep on target.

The hosts then cause the Swedish defence problems just five minutes into the second-half as they failed to clear a Bruno Alves cross which ping-ponged in the penalty area before the visitors could get the ball to safety.

Manchester United winger Nani produced a moment of quality in the 69th minute when he turned well and shot with his left but it was well saved low to Isaksson’s left.

Who else but captain fantastic Ronaldo finally grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and opened the scoring in this play-off clash. The former Red Devil flung himself at a brilliant cross from Miguel Veloso and directed his diving header past Sweden’s shot-stopper in the 82nd minute of play.

Ronaldo was inches away from grabbing a second a few minutes later but his header crashed against the crossbar in a much improved second-half.

Portugal looked the better side in the second-half and Ronaldo’s goal will give them a slight advantage when these teams take on one another in the second-leg and leave them confident of a place in Brazil.

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