MOSCOW, June 21, (Agencies): Cristiano Ronaldo said Portugal were worthy winners after scoring his first goal of the Confederations Cup to steer his country to a 1-0 victory over hosts Russia on Wednesday.
The Real Madrid star brushed off the tax storm clouding his club future by heading in the only goal in Moscow after just eight minutes to send the Euro 2016 champions above Russia at the top of Group A.
The Portuguese camp had insisted ahead of this game that their skipper was focused solely on matters on the field in Russia despite the speculation surrounding his future at Real.
He has been accused by Spanish authorities of evading 14.7 million euros ($16.5m) in tax and has been summoned to appear in court next month in Madrid.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner —the world’s highest-paid athlete according to Forbes magazine —has said his “conscience is clear” in the matter but has reportedly threatened to leave Real.
Despite the off-field disruption, Ronaldo picked up the man-of-the-match award in Portugal’s opening 2-2 draw with Mexico on Sunday.
And he was all smiles escorting a young mascot in a wheelchair out onto the pitch in Moscow before he netted his first goal of the tournament inside eight minutes at the home of Spartak Moscow.
Raphael Guerreiro’s towering cross from the left flank hung in the air and found Ronaldo, who rose at the far post to head back across Igor Akinfeev.
It was a miserable start for the Russian skipper, who was making his 100th international appearance.
Ronaldo’s goal was the highlight of the first period, although he forced Akinfeev into a save from point-blank range with a shot midway through the half. Soon after the break, Akinfeev kept Russia in the game with a one-handed reflex save from four metres out to deny Andre Silva’s bullet header.
But Portugal then lost Guerreiro to injury, with coach Fernando Santos conceding the Borussia Dortmund player had been taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.
The hosts were unlucky not to force an equaliser after a string of chances in a strong second-half display.
They started to shade the midfield battle after the break as Alexander Yerokhin was introduced in place of defender Roman Shishkin.
Russia upped the pace and Fedor Smolov just failed to connect with an Alexander Samedov cross as the hosts attacked in waves with the home crowd urging them on.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to pay Spain’s tax authorities 14.7 million euros ($16.39 million) — the amount he has been accused of defrauding by a prosecutor — ahead of a court hearing next month, Spanish state TV said on Wednesday.
Broadcaster TVE said, without identifying its sources, the 32-year-old would make this payment as a gesture of good will.
The report added Rolando will reiterate at a hearing on July 31 that he is innocent and has never hidden any income from the taxman or committed any tax fraud in Spain.
Representatives for Ronaldo declined to comment.
The Spanish prosecutor says the Real Madrid forward knowingly used a business structure to hide his image rights income in Spain between 2011 and 2014. Ronaldo has denied the charges.