Cristiano Ronaldo made World Cup history two days after parting ways with Manchester United, as Portugal defeated Ghana 3-2 in Qatar.
Ronaldo, who is a free agent following his severance from Manchester United, became the first player to score from the penalty spot in five World Cup final matches.
Andre Ayew’s equalizer threatened to derail Portugal’s celebrations, but a quickfire double from Joao Felix and replacement Rafael Leao gave them a two-goal lead.
Osman Bukari cut it in half with an 89th-minute header, but Portugal held on through nine minutes of added time to take the lead in Group H, where Uruguay and South Korea earlier drew 0-0.
In the 10th minute, the former Manchester United number seven was the first to have the crowd on their feet, rushing onto an Otavio ball after Mohammed Kudus was caught in possession.
The ball, however, went away from him, and goalkeeper Lawrence Ati won a 50-50 foot battle to stop Ronaldo.
The 2016 European winners dominated possession and pressed Ghana high up the pitch anytime the ball was lost, but the game was gritty.
Openings were few and far between, and Atletico Madrid winger Felix summed up the dearth of quality in the 28th minute when he leant back and lifted a left-foot drive well over the top.
After half an hour, Ronaldo had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed for a shove on Ghana defender Alexander Djiku.
Portugal remained territorially dominant, and as the half came to a close, Otavio shot wide after Joao Cancelo spotted his run from left to right across the box.
Kudus broke from deep, pulled away from Ruben Neves, and fired a low left-foot effort just wide of Diogo Costa’s goal to give Ghana a jolt in the second period.
After flicking his head towards Felix, American referee Ismail Elfath gave Alidu Seidu a strong word and a yellow card.
The goal that Portugal and Ronaldo were looking for came in the 65th minute, when the referee ruled that Ghana’s Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu had tripped the 37-year-old superstar in the area.
Almost every fan in the Portuguese end behind the goal had their phones ready as Ronaldo stepped up and made World Cup history, with Ati guessing correctly but failing to get close to the ball.
Ghana, on the other hand, rallied positively and equalized in the 73rd minute.
Kudus stung Costa’s hands with a thundering left-foot shot then broke clear on the left side of the area seconds later. Danilo Pereira became entangled while attempting to clear his low cross, and the ball dropped to Ayew, who swept in from close range.
However, after Baba Rahman allowed Bruno Fernandes’ through-pass to reach Felix, who moved on goal before clipping the ball beyond Ati, Portugal were given the opportunity to reclaim the lead.
The game appeared to be over when Fernandes sprinted forward from deep again, this time finding substitute Leao to his left, who curled an angled shot home.
Ronaldo surged clear in quest of his second and Portugal’s fourth goal, but Ati stopped him this time.
Bukari’s header made the last minutes more difficult, but Portugal held on despite a late lapse in judgment by goalkeeper Costa, who almost cost his team the game when he failed to notice Inaki Williams lurking behind him.