'Genius' Ronaldo fires Portugal into Nations League final

Cristiano Ronaldo, with Pepe and Bernardo Silva, was instrumental in Portugal's 3-1 Nations League semi-final win over Switzerland in Porto.
Cristiano Ronaldo, with Pepe and Bernardo Silva, was instrumental in Portugal's 3-1 Nations League semi-final win over Switzerland in Porto.PHOTO: REUTERS

PORTO • Portugal coach Fernando Santos hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as a "football genius" after his 53rd career hat-trick sent Portugal into the final of the Nations League on home soil with a 3-1 win over Switzerland.

The hosts had to withstand a moment of VAR (video assistant referee) controversy. After Ronaldo's free kick opened the scoring, Portugal thought they had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot when Fabian Schar upended Bernardo Silva inside the six-yard area.

Instead, in a bizarre turnaround of events, German referee Felix Brych reversed his initial decision and awarded a spot kick at the other end for an earlier incident, when Swiss midfielder Steven Zuber went down under a challenge from Nelson Semedo.

Brych, after consulting the VAR, decided to review the Swiss incident on the pitchside monitor and awarded them the penalty, which Ricardo Rodriguez converted to seemingly send the game to extra time.

However, Ronaldo predictably took centre stage as he struck twice in the final two minutes to set up a final clash with either England or the Netherlands on Sunday.

"I was his coach in 2003 and I could see where he'd go," said Santos. "He's a genius. There's genius paintings and sculptures and he's a football genius.

"Simply a genius. When a player scores three goals in a game, of course he makes the difference."

English Premier League clubs will hope that there will be less VAR drama when the system is implemented next season, after they voted on Wednesday to allow replays of incidents reviewed by VAR to be shown on big screens in stadiums.

"If the VAR believes there is a definitive video clip which helps explain an overturned decision to fans, it will be broadcast on giant screens," the Premier League said in a statement.

VAR was used at last year's World Cup in Russia, this season's Champions League knockout stages and has already been in use in other top European leagues such as Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga. But replays have never been shown to the fans inside the stadium, leaving them in the dark while referees take a closer look.

The Premier League confirmed it was also looking at ways for supporters to view the clips on handheld devices via an app.

For clubs that do not have giant screens in their stadiums, VAR communications will be made through a combination of announcements and messages on scoreboards.

The Premier League has also created graphics that will be displayed on giant screens to explain any VAR-related delay to a match, and any overturned decision.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2019, with the headline ''Genius' Ronaldo fires Portugal into Nations League final'. Print Edition | Subscribe