Soccer-Portugal's record-breaking Ronaldo sinks battling Hungary

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo struck a late double to help holders Portugal get off to a winning start with a 3-0 victory over Hungary in front of a 67,000 crowd on Tuesday as the forward became the all-time leading scorer at European Championship finals.

Hungary rode a wave of early pressure from Portugal in the Group F clash and had a goal ruled out for offside shortly before Portugal's Raphael Guerreiro broke the deadlock at the other end with a deflected effort in the 84th minute.

Captain Ronaldo sealed the win by lashing home from the penalty spot in the 87th to move ahead of Michel Platini as the all-time top scorer at the finals on 10 goals, which he quickly turned into 11 by dribbling the ball into the net in added time.

"It was a very difficult game but we got three goals. It was vital to win and start the tournament with confidence and now we want to keep on winning," said Ronaldo.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos added: "If we'd scored earlier it would have been easier for us. We missed a few chances then had some anxious moments but found our composure again and finished the game well."

The two sides had drawn 3-3 in one of the best games of Euro 2016 and although there were fewer goals this time around the match was no less compelling as the vociferous locals filled the Puskas Arena to capacity in only their second European Championship appearance in 49 years.

A sizeable travelling Portugal support added to a raucous atmosphere barely seen since the novel coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020 and forced matches behind closed doors.

The action on the pitch mirrored the fervour in the stands as Portugal played with real intensity.

Diogo Jota had the first clear sight of goal when he thumped a shot which was parried by keeper Peter Gulacsi, incurring the wrath of a furious Ronaldo who was in a better place to shoot.

RONALDO MISS

Ronaldo was left only blaming himself late in the first half though when he uncharacteristically missed the target from close range after an incisive cross from Bruno Fernandes.

Striker Adam Szalai was Hungary's main threat, heading a free kick into the arms of Rui Patricio shortly before halftime then testing the keeper again early in the second half.

Portugal's veteran defender Pepe nearly scored at the start of the second half but was thwarted by the ever-alert Gulacsi, who later turned away a strike from Fernandes.

Hungary substitute Szabolcs Schon set the stadium alight in the 80th minute when his shot squirmed past Patricio but the linesman's flag was quickly raised to puncture the celebrations.

Guerreiro soon brought the hosts more pain as his scuffed shot trickled into the far corner of the net off the foot of Hungary defender Willi Orban, who moments later fouled Rafa Silva to allow Ronaldo to score from the spot.

Ronaldo then combined with Silva to calmly dance past Gulacsi and round off a day of records after also becoming the only player to feature in five European Championships and to play the most games at the finals.

"It’s ever so frustrating. We defended well, the whole team worked well and we gave it our all," said Hungary defender Attila Szalai.

Hungary meet world champions France next back at the Puskas Arena while Portugal face Germany in Munich.

Hungary's football-mad Prime Minister Viktor Orban was intent on filling the shiny new stadium, which opened in 2019, as he seeks to boost his popularity ahead of next year's election.

Orban, who was at the game, has channelled billions of euros in state funds to upgrade an ageing football infrastructure and incurred widespread criticism for prioritising football over healthcare funds, particularly as the pandemic raged.

While the country has weathered a second wave of coronavirus with new cases averaging 100 to 200 in the last week thanks to a rapid vaccine rollout, at one point it had the world's highest number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people based on Johns Hopkins University data.

(Reporting by Richard Martin and Shrivathsa Sridhar, additional reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)

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