Portugal 0-0 Austria: Cristiano Ronaldo has another night to forget as talisman misses second-half penalty to leave group favourites still awaiting their first victory at Euro 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Some things are just not meant to be. And you get the feeling that Euro 2016 and Cristiano Ronaldo might be an item on that list.No matter how hard they endeavour to make it work, maybe it’s better they just agree to part now before it gets too nasty. Iceland was bitter enough; this was painful to watch.

Doubtless they will give it one last try for the sake of the children. There is a game against Hungary next Wednesday; win there, and the romance between these two estranged entities can still blossom.

But a night in Paris could do nothing to revive the ardour between the tournament and its star player. On a hugely significant evening for the Real Madrid man, when he won his 128th cap, a national record, he craved the spotlight so much it was palpable.
As the Portuguese anthem reached a rousing finale, he punched the air with pleasure and unabashed pride at his achievement. Yet his joy would not continue on the pitch, sour grapes evidently not being a performance-enhancing substance.

It seemed redemption would come. Ronaldo has had 20 shots on goal in this tournament; that’s more than many teams have mustered. And still he has yet to score. After an evening of missed chances, unimpressive free-kicks and finding himself marshalled by the impressive Florian Klein, his moment seemingly arrived on 78 minutes.

Having been outstanding defensively as a team, Austrian centre-half Martin Hinteregger finally succumbed, almost wrestling Ronaldo to the floor as he waited for a cross to drop on his head. Hinteregger did not see red, because new rules deem the penalty and a yellow card punishment enough.

It seemed Ronaldo would have the last laugh. He adopted his macho stance, legs apart, hands on hips; he strode up to the spot; and he drove his penalty firmly against the post.

Yet that wasn’t the end of it. When, on 86 minutes, he rose to head home, his team, his manager and he himself celebrated as if he was a persecuted man finally vindicated.

All the more galling, then, to turn to see an offside flag correctly raised to disallow the effort, leaving Portugal precariously poised in this weak group, with just two points.

Despite all of this, he did have the good grace to hold off a steward at the end as a fan on the pitch asked him to pose for a selfie. His demeanour may have improved since the volley of insults he aimed at Iceland; but this was a desperately disappointing night.

This is not the result we wanted; it’s not deserved, it’s not fair, but this is football,’ said Fernando Santos, the Portuguese manager, who declined to discuss Ronaldo. ‘We tried everything but it’s no use crying over spilt milk. We have a final match and we must focus on that.

‘Everything is up for grabs. If we win we qualify. We’re going through a tough time right now but we can’t wallow in our misery. We can’t focus on our missed chances.’

The tone was set early on with the chants of ‘Messi, Messi’ from the Austrian fans; and when, in a delightful passage of play, Nani set up Raphael Guerreiro to pull back a lovely cross, which Ronaldo headed inexplicably wide on 22 minutes, those chants rose to a crescendo.

He wasn’t alone in being wasteful. Martin Harnik missed Austria’s best chance inside three minutes when he managed to somehow head Marcel Sabitzer’s perfect cross wide from three yards.
Nani then forced a good save from Robert Almer on 13 minutes but was unluckier when his header hit the post on the half-hour.

Ronaldo emerged for the second half in heated discussion with referee Nicola Rizzoli, presumably impressing on him the need to contain Klein’s efforts in subduing him. Again, as in the first half, it was the Austrians who threatened first, Stefan Ilsanker forcing a save by Rui Patricio from long range on 47 minutes.

Yet Portugal were soon back in the groove, with Ronaldo much more of a presence. You sensed the anticipation when Portugal won a free-kick on 50 minutes in what is now known as Gareth Bale territory.