LUSAIL: Cristiano Ronaldo wheeled away in celebration, acting as though he had scored once again at the World Cup.
Not this time.
Instead, it was Bruno Fernandes eventually credited with the goal that set up Portugal’s 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday, advancing the team into the last 16.
Fernandes curled in a cross from the left that barely went over the head of the leaping Ronaldo and bounced into the far corner of the net in the 54th minute to give Portugal a 1-0 lead.
A grinning Ronaldo threw his arms in the air, suggesting he got the final touch, and was embracing Fernandes as multiple close-up replays were being shown on the big screens in Lusail Stadium.
Alas for Ronaldo, the goal wound up being awarded to Fernandes, who added a second from the penalty spot in stoppage time after a handball by Jose Maria Gimenez as he slid in to challenge the Manchester United playmaker.
“I don't really think it matters who scored,” Fernandes said about the first goal. “The feeling at the time was that he (Ronaldo) touched the ball — I was crossing it to him — but what's important was we moved into the next round and beat a very big opponent.”
Fernandes was denied a hat trick with virtually the last kick of the game, his shot from outside the area hitting the post and bouncing wide.
Portugal, which opened with a 3-2 win over Ghana, became the third team to reach the last 16 after France and Brazil.
Uruguay has one point from two matches and needs to beat Ghana on Friday to stand a chance of advancing. The 2010 semifinalists have yet to score a goal at this tournament, with coach Diego Alonso even putting 35-year-old striker Luis Suarez on the bench in search of the right combination up front.
Portugal has no such worries. The team has scored five goals in two games and Fernandes has had a hand in four of them as he dictates play in his role as the team's No. 10.
Ronaldo was unable to add to the penalty he scored against Ghana, which took his World Cup tally to eight goals from five tournaments and his men's record of international goals to 118.
He still was the centre of attention, though, illuminating a lacklustre first half with tricks and flicks that brought gasps from the crowd inside the World Cup's largest venue, where Ronaldo will hope to return for the final on Dec. 18.
There was a booming layoff with his right shoulder for teammate William Carvalho to volley over in the opening minutes. There was a double stepover and no-look pass that was nothing more than showboating. Then came an impressive chest control as he leapt to receive a cross toward the far post.
Ronaldo is now assured of at least two more matches in what is likely his final World Cup, and will play in the knockout stage for the fourth time in his career.
A draw against South Korea in its final Group H match will secure first place for Portugal, and likely avoid a last-16 meeting with Brazil.
As for Uruguay, a must-win game awaits against Ghana — a repeat of the 2010 quarterfinal match won by the South American team in a penalty shootout after Suarez was sent off for a handball on the line in stoppage time of extra time.
Suarez might be recalled for that game after making an impact off the bench against Portugal, shooting just wide from close range after fellow substitute Maxi Gomez curled a shot against the post.
“We'll need to gamble more. We need to be a bold team,” Alonso said.
Portugal avenged its loss to Uruguay in the last 16 at the 2018 tournament.
The match was briefly interrupted just before the goal by a protestor carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt that said “SAVE UKRAINE" on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN" on the back. Security officials chased the protestor down and the flag was dropped on the field.
Portugal defender Pepe became the second oldest outfield player to feature at a World Cup, at the age of 39. The oldest is Roger Milla, who was 42 when he played for Cameroon at the 1994 tournament.
Portugal left back Nuno Mendes dropped to the ground in the 40th minute and was soon in tears after sustaining a match-ending injury. He was able to walk off the field unassisted and was replaced by Raphael Guerreiro, the other left back in Portugal's squad.