KAZAN: Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly put out of his mind the controversy over his tax dispute as Portugal, despite his efforts, were held 2-2 by Mexico on the second matchday of the Confederations Cup in Russia.
The champions of Europe had twice led their opposite numbers from central/north America in their Group A duel but each time they wasted the advantages provided by Ricardo Quaresma and Cedric by conceding equalisers to Javier Hernandez and Hector Moreno.
The Spanish media had been in a frenzy after reports that the Real Madrid superstar and world player of the year was ready to storm out of the Spanish game in anger at what he considered to be persecution by the revenue services.
But he played through the first half as if without a care in the world.
In the 18th minute Ronaldo thrashed a free kick against the bar, Mexico failed to clear but though Portugal thought they had scored in the ensuing scramble the ‘goal’ was disallowed for an offside in the original action.
Portugal, undeterred, continued to forge forward.
Mexican keeper Gabriel Ochoa finger-tipped the ball over the bar when a Nani drive took an awkward deflection off the head of Carlos Salcedo. Then Ronaldo, with a mesmeric sleight of foot, sliced wide the Mexican defence for Quaresma to score easily from close range.
Carelessly Portugal squandered the advantage.
Raphael Guerrero missed a clearance to a left-wing cross, Carlos Vella centred from the right and, with Pepe too slow to read the danger, Chicharito Hernandez dive-header the equaliser. It was Hernandez’s 48th goal in his 93rd appearance.
Indeed, El Tri might have gone in at half-time with a 2-1 lead. But when Raul Jimenez pulled the ball back from the byline Hernandez, with the goal at his mercy, ballooned his shot high over the bar.
The second half, which saw a string of early substitutions, contained none of the attacking freedom of the initial exchanges, with both teams playing more cautiously in tactical term the longer the game ran on.
Ronaldo, struggling to find space now, once teed up a shooting chance for Quaresma but Ochoa saved, falling to his left, at second attempt.
The goalkeeper was left with no chance when a cross from substitute Gelson upset the Mexican defence and fullback Cedric shot home Portugal’s second goal.
However Portugal once again proved incapable of maintaining defensive concentration. In the first minute of stoppage time Mexico forced a left-wing corner and central defender Moreno powered through a forest of defenders to head in off keeper Rui Patricio’s left-hand post.
The 2-2 draw was good news, above all, for hosts Russia who thus stood two points clear at the top of Group A.