Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal to their first victory of the UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying campaign with a 3-0 win against Azerbaijan in Porto.
The Manchester United FC winger has been in electric form this season and dazzled the Group A minnows, underlined by two well-taken goals. Ronaldo struck in either half, with an effort in between from Ricardo Carvalho wrapping up a fine night's work by the hosts. Portugal now have four points from two matches and will have every confidence of more success in Poland on Wednesday.
Deco was the game's key figure early on, having two good chances himself before setting up Ronaldo for the opener. In the 19th minute the playmaker met Luis Miguel's cross but headed straight at visiting keeper Farkhad Veliyev, before failing to draw a save with a 20-metre shot two minutes later. Four minutes later he was more effective, playing in Ronaldo from the right and allowing him to convert with a clinical left-foot finish.
Then, just moments after the restart, Ronaldo nearly made it two when he rattled the crossbar from a central position. Ricardo Carvalho doubled the advantage soon after when the visitors failed to clear their lines in the aftermath of a Ronaldo free-kick, enabling the tall centre-half to hammer in from inside the area.
The Azeris mustered just one first-half counterattack, Zaur Gashimov firing wide of the left-hand post with his 33rd-minute attempt. At the other end, Nuno Gomes, Maniche and Ronaldo all peppered Veliyev with shots. Leandro Gomes and Aslan Kerimov spurned presentable opportunities for the away team after the interval and Andre Ladaga also blazed high over the crossbar after 54 minutes.
Portugal were rather more clinical and Ronaldo registered his second in the 63rd minute when he nodded in Simão's teasing cross from close range. Ronaldo was withdrawn in the 73rd minute with the points assured and Luiz Felipe Scolari's side could not find as high a tempo without him. Azerbaijan will hope for better when they make the trip to Brussels to face Belgium in four days' time.