Lisbon: Cristiano Ronaldo scored on his emotional return home, but Portugal squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Sweden in a friendly on Tuesday.
Ronaldo found the net 18 minutes into his first match with the national team in his hometown of Funchal on the Madeira Islands, delighting the nearly 10,000 fans who packed the tiny Estadio do Maritimo to see their local hero.
Ronaldo was the main attraction from the start, getting a loud ovation from the crowd even before the match started by lifting and displaying the trophy that he helped Portugal win for the first time in last year’s European Championship. With his mother and son watching from the tribunes, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a close-range shot after a right-flank cross by Gelson Martins. He then set up the move that led to an own goal by Sweden defender Andreas Granqvist in the 34th.
However, Viktor Claesson started the comeback for the visitors with a shot from inside the area in the 57th minute and then netted the equalizer from a corner kick in the 76th.
An own goal by Joan Cancelo in the third and final minute of stoppage time handed victory to Sweden. “It’snever good when you lose,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who made several changes to the squad while it had the lead. “We scored the first two goals and the game was under control, but we lacked attention in the second half. We shouldn’t have conceded those three goals.”
The fans chanted Ronaldo’s name several times, including when he was substituted by veteran Ricardo Quaresma in the 58th minute. On Wednesday, the Madeira airport outside Funchal will be renamed after Ronaldo in a ceremony attended by the Real Madrid player and his relatives. Funchal already features a Ronaldo statue, a museum about the player, and a hotel complex named after him.
Ronaldo grew up in the city sharing a room with his older brother and two older sisters before moving to the mainland to join the youth squads of Sporting Lisbon. From there, he made it to Manchester United and eventually to Madrid, becoming one of the world’s biggest soccer stars. He received his fourth world player of the year award in January.
Ronaldo is regarded as a promoter of Madeira, which is considered one of the world’s top travel destinations. The islands are located are about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the African coast, and some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the European continent.
Portugal was coming ofd a convincing 3-0 win over Hungary in World Cup qualifying on Saturday in Lisbon, when Ronaldo scored twice and youngster Andre Silva added another. Ronaldo is the leading scorer in European qualifying with nine goals, one more than Poland’s Robert Lewandowski.
Ronaldo has scored nine goals in his last four European qualifiers with the national team.
Portugal has 12 points from five matches in qualifying, three points less than Group B leader Switzerland. Hungary is five points behind Portugal. Only the group winner automatically qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.