ST PETERSBURG – European champions Portugal comfortably dispatched New Zealand 4-0 to reach the Confederations Cup semi-finals on Saturday after Cristiano Ronaldo set them on their way with a penalty.
Portugal’s all-time leading scorer swept the ball home in the 33rd minute, his 75th goal for his country, and Bernardo Silva added the second four minutes later.
A solo effort from Andre Silva, his eighth goal in 11 appearances, in the 80th minute and a stoppage-time goal from substitute Nani completed the scoring.
It was a typically efficient performance from Portugal, who never looked in danger despite a sluggish start.
However, it was not all good news as Bernardo Silva went off injured at halftime, while a needless and reckless challenge from Pepe ruled the controversial central defender out of Wednesday’s semi-final.
Portugal were 2-0 up when he picked up his second yellow card of the tournament for a tackle in the middle of the pitch.
New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who helped Unterhaching win promotion from the German fourth division last season, kept the score down with a superb second-half display.
The Oceania champions were far from disgraced, but have now completed four campaigns in the tournament without winning a game and have an overall record of 11 defeats and a draw in 12 matches.
Portugal topped Group A with seven points from three games, ahead of Mexico on goal difference after the CONCACAF champions beat hosts Russia 2-1. New Zealand finished bottom of the group after losing all three games.
Semi final well done team 🇵🇹👍👌 pic.twitter.com/UJyPs37jw1
Portugal came to life after a Ronaldo header thumped against the underside of the crossbar in the 26th minute.
They went ahead when Danilo went tumbling under a challenge from two defenders, the referee pointed to the spot without asking for a video replay, and Ronaldo swept home the penalty.
Four minutes later, Eliseu was set free down the left by Ricardo Quaresma’s clever pass and he pulled the ball back into the middle, where Bernardo Silva turned it into the net, although he suffered a knock on the ankle in the process.
Marinovic made impressive saves to deny Ronaldo, Andre Silva and Nani, but was powerless to stop Andre Silva or Nani late in the game.
Meanwhile, Mexico scored either side of halftime to eliminate hosts Russia from the Confederations Cup with a win 2-1 on Saturday that sent them into the semi-finals.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev misread a long clearance and was helpless on the edge of his penalty area as a bouncing header by Hirving Lozano floated past him in the 52nd minute.
Russia had taken the lead in the 25th minute with a low strike by Alexander Samedov, beating goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa just inside the far post after Mexico had failed to clear a header, and midfielder Aleksandr Erokhin missed the ball as he was trying to shoot.
Mexico defender Nestor Araujo equalised in the 30th minute with a looping header.