Belfast Telegraph

Roni has proved yet again he's the Real deal: Santos


Slip-up: David De Gea somehow allows Cristiano Ronaldo to score
Slip-up: David De Gea somehow allows Cristiano Ronaldo to score
Fernando Santos

By Paul Burrows

Portugal boss Fernando Santos hailed his goalscoring sensation Cristiano Ronaldo after the Real Madrid marksman frustrated Spain with a stunning hat-trick.

In an enthralling match that saw the World Cup really take off, the former Manchester United ace had the final say with a stunning free-kick in the 3-3 Group B thriller.

Santos praised his star man who needed a slice of luck when David de Gea, widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world, let a regulation shot squirm away from him for Ronaldo's second.

Santos said: "Cristiano Ronaldo has incredible mental endurance, he has technical quality and an incredible mind - that is what makes him one of the best in the world.

"When it was 3-2 he was the one who raised his team. He plays in great teams, is always in great finals so that gives him a different perspective.

"We have to turn up the intensity, the Spanish team have great quality but we gave them too much space and there was a lack of aggressiveness.

"We have fought until the end and we believed it was possible. We didn't want a draw but all in all I think it is a fair result.

"The result, we are not totally satisfied but the performance was better - the result left something to be desired. We are a very highly technical team and if you don't have the ball it will be hard, we have to correct some aspects of our play."

Manchester United stopper De Gea's uncharacteristic blunder was another huge talking point.

United boss Jose Mourinho said: "It's my boy, it hurts me to say but he knows it's a bad mistake. It's a mistake he doesn't make with us, United - player of the season, fantastic performances. But that happens to the best."

Ronaldo denied Spain's interim manager Fernando Hierro from winning his first match in charge, scoring a free-kick in the 88th minute to complete a hat-trick and salvage a point for the reigning European champions.

Hierro backed De Gea to bounce back from his mistake and he also saluted his men.

"We don't have any doubts about De Gea and he doesn't have any doubts about himself," said Hierro.

"Being a goalkeeper requires a certain psychology but we have absolutely no doubts about him.

"I feel extremely privileged because people have had a fantastic reaction to the (manager) situation and I'm very grateful. The circumstances have not been easy at all. The players are extremely professional and this squad will continue to show that motivation."

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