CRISTIANO RONALDO remains level with Lionel Messi for World Cup goals – despite claiming the opener.
And when Portugal were given a ridiculous late penalty for handball, Ronaldo was already off the pitch, allowing Fernandes to complete a brace.
Cristiano Ronaldo claimed to have scored Portugal’s winner. Credit: Getty
Ronaldo celebrated as if he had scored. Credit: Reuters
Fifa awarded the goal to Bruno Fernandes. Credit: Reuters
But of the two superstars to have led their countries to victory at the stadium that will host the final, the Portugal captain looks the more likely to be back here on December 18.
Ronaldo was initially credited with putting the faintest of touches on a Fernandes cross and moving one ahead of his Argentinian nemesis again after Messi’s goal at the other end of the pitch two nights before.
His face when he looked up to the screen to see it had been awarded to the Manchester United man was a picture.
Was Ronaldo playing to the cameras with his look of amazement and amusement?
Either way, he could yet have the last laugh over Messi at this tournament.
Because Portugal are a better team than Argentina and look less reliant on the genius of one man.
Not that they were brilliant, far from it.
And they were on the ropes as Uruguay went close to grabbing the draw that was probably the limit of their ambitions at kick off.
Yet this squad has the make-up and look of a World Cup winner, and topping the group gives them a favourable-looking draw.
If Ronaldo does lift the trophy, it would be a popular victory.
If anything, it felt like there were more of his fan boys and girls in the crowd than there had been Messi supporters on Saturday night when the ranks of native Argentinians were swelled significantly by locals and tourists.
Every flick, feint and stepover was greeted with the kind of gasps that normal people reserve for a decent fireworks display.
Ronaldo could not produce the big bang this time but this win guaranteed he will have the chance to make the difference in the knockout stages.
Which is more than Messi can say right now.
Like Mexico vs Argentina, the actual football was a disappointment.
As expected, the injury to Portugal defender Danilo enabled Pepe, 39, to become the second oldest outfield player to start a game at the World Cup.
But fans of aggro were disappointed to see that Uruguay boss Diego Alonso had dropped Luis Suarez, a mere 35 year old, from the starting line-up.
To watch the former Barcelona striker get his teeth – perhaps literally – into Pepe, the ex-Real Madrid defender had been an enticing prospect.
In truth, Suarez could have no complaints after his performance in the opening goalless draw against South Korea.
It said a lot about Uruguay’s options, however, that Suarez’s replacement was another 35 year old, Edinson Cavani, who was a passenger from the start.
Ronaldo began as if he was in the mood, with a shoulder lay-off to William Carvalho, who volleyed well off target.
But although he and Portugal’s three other attacking players rotated elusively, they were unable to find a way through dogged and well-organised Uruguay.
Alonso’s team were doing little at the other end.
But the undoubted highlight of the first half was Tottenham’s Rodrigo Bentancur running through Portugal from the centre circle to the penalty area, only for Diogo Costa to come out to save his tame finish.
At the start of the second half, organisers were so desperate to drum up some excitement that they revealed Darwin Nunez had recorded the top speed of the match.
Then a fan sprinted on to the pitch with a rainbow flag and a number of other protests to make.
The game was temporarily halted when a fan ran onto the pitch. Credit: Getty
The pitch invader held a rainbow flag. Credit: Getty
But the game was going nowhere fast despite until the strange goal.
Fernandes’ cross was lovely, Ronaldo’s run was well-timed, but Rochet focused so much on what the living legend might do to the ball that he forgot about saving it.
Alonso waited a little while to act, finally taking off Cavani and – surprisingly – Nunez, and throwing on Suarez and Maxi Gomez with less than 20 minutes to go.
The latter hit the post within minutes.
Suarez could find only the side netting when the ball broke to him in the six-yard box.
Then wing back Guillermo Varela burst through to force an unconvincing save out of Costa.
It was by far Uruguay’s best spell of the game but not enough to deserve a point.
Ronaldo’s ageing limbs were given a rest as he came off with about 10 minutes to go.
Quite what convinced the VAR and then referee Alireza Faghani that Gimenez’s accidental handball as he fell to the ground was worth a penalty, heaven alone knows.
But there was no doubt about Fernandes’ conversion of the spotkick.
He would have had a hat-trick but Rochet saved and then he hit the post.
Ronaldo, you like to think, was pleased for this team-mate.
And he can still dream of completing his set of major trophies with the one that he and Messi covet the most.
Portugal were awarded a penalty for this handball. Credit: Getty
Bruno Fernandes sealed the win from the spot. Credit: Getty
Fernandes celebrates after scoring his second of the game. Credit: Getty