Cristiano Ronaldo continued his incredible run of form as he scored twice and created another to ensure Portugal consolidated second place in World Cup Qualifying Group B with a convincing 3-0 win over Latvia.
Fresh from leading Real Madrid to Champions League glory with a brace against Juventus in Cardiff last weekend, Ronaldo was in inspired form once again as his predatory instincts came to the fore in an entertaining encounter in Riga.
Having twice been denied by the superb Andris Vanins, the 32-year-old was in the right place at the right time to tuck in Portugal’s opener on the stroke of half-time.
Another point-blank header saw Ronaldo double his tally 63 minutes in, before he teed up strike-partner Andre Silva for Portugal’s third soon after.
It adds to what has already been a remarkable campaign for the former Manchester United man, who has now netted 53 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions this term, while setting Portugal up perfectly for their maiden appearance in the Confederations Cup.
Ronaldo’s inspired display was not enough to lift Portugal up to top spot in Group B, however, with Switzerland staying three points ahead courtesy of their win over the Faroe Islands.
Latvia started brightly, though it was Portugal who should have opened the scoring inside 12 minutes – veteran defender Bruno Alves unable to beat Vanins from close range.
Ronaldo, on the fringe of proceedings in the opening stages, was the next to test Vanins, who did brilliantly to tip the Madrid star’s venomous strike over the bar.
Vanins’ contest with Ronaldo continued after the half-hour mark, Latvia’s goalkeeper stooping low to his right to keep out another wicked effort from the Portugal captain.
Ronaldo was not to be denied a third time, however.
Having stayed forward following a free-kick, Jose Fonte rose highest to head Raphael Guerreiro’s cross goalwards and, though the post came to Latvia’s rescue, Ronaldo was on hand to nod home from inside the six-yard box.
While Ronaldo continued to pepper Vanins’ goal at the other end, Rui Patricio finally had a save to make shortly before the hour-mark, reacting well to parry away Olegs Laizans’ free-kick.
William Carvalho squandered a fine opportunity to double Portugal’s lead soon after, but Ronaldo made no such mistake moments later.
Ricardo Quaresma’s deflected cross left Vanins flat-footed, with Ronaldo again perfectly positioned to take full advantage with a cushioned header from under the crossbar.
And the result was put beyond all doubt four minutes later – Ronaldo turning provider with a superbly-weighted pass into Silva, whose first-time finish found the bottom-left corner.
Ronaldo was denied a penalty and then found the side-netting as he searched for a hat-trick, but it mattered little as Portugal cruised to a simple victory.