Cristiano Ronaldo has emphatically won the first round of his World Cup duel with eternal rival Lionel Messi — reveling in the adulation after his dramatic hat-trick while the Argentine flopped against Iceland.
Messi knew he had to find something special to match the Portuguese on Saturday but ended up squandering a golden chance to write his own headlines as he failed to convert from the penalty spot.
Then, with just seconds remaining in Moscow, the Barcelona man stood over a direct free-kick, mirroring the opportunity Ronaldo had the previous evening against Spain.
Ronaldo puffed out his cheeks, hitched up his shorts and arrowed his set-piece into the net to seal his 51st career hat-trick and pull Portugal level at 3-3.
In contrast, Messi, with the score at 1-1, drove his free-kick straight into the wall, booting the ball into the air in frustration as the final whistle sounded seconds later.
Ronaldo, who also scored from the penalty spot on Friday, has now joined an elite group of players to have found the net at four consecutive World Cups.
The 30-year-old Messi often edges Ronaldo in the debate about who is the best player in the world, with both men vying for supremacy on the same stage in Spain’s La Liga.
The Argentine is a magician at the heart of the Barcelona team while Ronaldo has transformed himself from a twinkle-toed winger at Manchester United and in his early Real Madrid days, into a devastating finisher.