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News Every Day |

Georgia 2 Portugal 0: Sensational Kvaratskhelia inspires minnows to famous win as frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo is hooked

A talismanic No7 led his nation from the front.

And his countrymen, heroes all, made history.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave Georgia an early lead
Getty
Kvaratskhelia’s opener sparked jubilant scenes in Gelsenkirchen
AFP
Rex
It was the beginning of a momentous night for Georgia[/caption]
Georges Mikautadze doubled Georgia’s lead from the penalty spot
Getty
Antonio Silva fouled Luca Lochoshvili for the penalty
PA
Georges Mikautadze is now the top scorer at the Euros with three goals
Getty
It was a dismal night for Cristiano Ronaldo and Co in Gelsenkirchen
Getty

Match Stats

Kvaratskhelia produced one of the performances of the tournament against Portugal

Cristiano who?

No, this was the night of Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, his brothers in arms and Georgia.

In the build-up to the game, Kvaratskhelia admitted he had been below par at his homeland’s first major tournament.

The electric winger who played such a big role in Napoli’s 2022/23 Serie A triumph was not living up the nickname that his club’s fans had adoringly given him.

Kvaradona will never eclipse Diego Maradona.

But for one night only he and his team got the better of living legend Cristiano Ronaldo and his much-fancied Portugal team.

They led after barely 90 seconds, through Kvaratskhelia’s superb goal on the break.

It felt unlikely they could hold out for another 90 minutes and more.

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Ronaldo failed to impact the game before he was taken off
Ronaldo felt he was being fouled in the area by Georgian defenders
Getty
Ronaldo was booked for dissent after raging at the officials
AFP

Yet some gutsy defending and Portugal’s failure to make the most of their openings kept them ahead until George Mikautadze doubled their lead from a VAR-awarded penalty.

Even then they still had more than half an hour to go against Roberto Martinez’s star-studded squad.

But in the end, Portugal paid the price for fielding a second string against a team for whom this was more than a football match.

Reaching the last 16 at their first attempt is an achievement that will be remembered in Georgia long after the current political problems are resolved, hopefully soon and without violence.

And for good measure, Georgia’s win and third place means England will not have to face Holland in the last 16.

That’s for Gelsenkirchen 2006, Cristiano!

There was no repeat of the winking with which Ronaldo greeted the sending off of Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney when Portugal beat England here on penalties in the World Cup quarter final.

Martinez felt confident enough to chose to put minutes in the legs of some of his back-up players ahead of the knockout stage and to experiment again with three at the back.

That meant wing-back roles for Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot and Wolves winger Pedro Neto, who were two of the eight changes from the 3-0 win over Turkey that had guaranteed top spot in Group F.

It was another, Benfica centre half Antonio Silva, who gifted Georgia their perfect start.

Under little pressure, he passed straight to Georges Mikautadze.

As quick as you could say, “This team are known for their swift counter attacks”, Mikautadze laid a perfect pass into the path of Kvaratskhelia, who had run half the length of the pitch by the time he finished coolly.

The celebrations were much less composed, not least in the press box…


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Kvaratskhelia’s opposite number was soon getting excited for different reasons.

Ronaldo was moaning as early as the 10th minute about free kicks not being given in Portugal’s favour.

Giorgi, the first name sported by many of Sagnol’s squad, comes from Ancient Greek and literally means farmer.

Some of the Georgian challenges were pretty agricultural, to be fair.

But Ronaldo allowed them and the situation to get under his skin.

He saw a free kick fisted away by Giorgi Mamardashvili, then gave Silva daggers for taking the ball off his head.

And after Francisco Conceicao hit a shot into the side-netting, the Portugal captain really lost his rag.

Again, his complaints that his shirt was being pulled were not without justification.

But he spoke and gestured too much and into the referee’s book he went, chuntering away at the world the whole time.

Georgia had done nothing going forward for more than half an hour until Kvaratskhelia was twice just off target, with Ronaldo having a shot well blocked in between.

When Neto picked up Portugal’s third yellow for diving at Euro 2024 – Rafael Leao earned the other two – his captain just about kept his temper.

Mamardashvili scrambled to stop Neto’s corner going in directly and an eventful first half ended.

EPA
It was a night to remember for the Georgia fans in Germany and back home[/caption]
Getty
Georgia will now face Spain for a place int he quarter-finals[/caption]

The pattern soon resumed.

Portugal prodded and probed, Ronaldo was denied again by the latest in a series of blocks by the men in red.

Kvaratskhelia had a chance to double his team’s lead but snatched badly at his shot.

Then came Silva’s second moment to forget.

He left in a lazy leg as he half-heartedly challenged Luka Locoshvili that Swiss referee Sandro Scharer deemed no foul.

But after Mamardashvili made a brilliant save from Dalot, the VAR invited Scharer to have another look.

Penalty. And Mikautadze stuck it away as if it was not the most significant moment of his life.

Ronaldo was not impressed. Even less so when he responded to a faint tug on his arm by Lasha Dvali with a dramatic dive and the ref didn’t buy it.

Shortly after Kvaratskhelia had kept the ball despite the attentions of about half the Portugal team, Ronaldo was taken off.

Watford’s Giorgi Chakvetadze and Budu Zivzivadze had chances to give Georgia breathing space.

But Portugal’s men in grey could not find a way through the heroes in red.

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