09/07/2013 02:42 am ET

Ronaldo Nets Hat Trick For Portugal In World Cup Qualifier vs. Northern Ireland (VIDEO/PHOTOS)

Portugal found itself in trouble against Northern Ireland and Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue with a hat trick.

Bruno Alves staked Portugal to an early 1-0 lead at Windsor Park in Northern Ireland but the hosts surged ahead with goals on either side of the intermission courtesy of Gareth McAuley and Jamie Ward. With his country trailing as the game moved past the hour mark, the 28-year-old Real Madrid star got his head to a Moutinho corner in the 68th minute. Less than 10 minutes after scoring the equalizer, Ronaldo nodded home his second goal of the match to put Portugal in front, 3-2. He finished off his hat trick just a short while later with a devastating free kick.

"It's the sign of a world-class player … one of the greatest you will see in the stadium," Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill told The Guardian after his side's come-from-ahead 4-2 defeat. "You have to look at the key moments of the game and say Ronaldo [was the difference]. When he had an opportunity to exploit space he took a real grasp of the game."


This 15-minute treble moved Ronaldo past Eusebio into second place on Portugal's all-time scoring list, according to Ronaldo's 43 goals for his country trails only Pauletta. The 4-2 win moved Portugal atop European Group F in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.



PHOTOS: Portugal vs. Northern Ireland