Much to the delight of the MetLife Stadium crowd, Cristiano Ronaldo demonstrated the brilliance that has made him the best soccer player on the planet in a 5-1 victory over Ireland in a World Cup warm-up Tuesday night.
Much to the relief of Portugal national coach Paulo Bento, the 29-year-old superstar performed in a competitive match for the first time in 21/2 weeks.
Ronaldo, playing in his first game after sitting out two matches because of tendinitis in his left knee and a thigh injury, did not score during his 65-minute appearance, but he looked like his dangerous self and set up the third goal.
"Players like Ronaldo are definitely important for any team they play for," Bento said through an interpreter. "Such is the case for ourselves. It's good for us he is back."
And perhaps bad for Portugal's Group G foes.
If the Portuguese want to do anything in Brazil, a healthy Ronaldo is a must, especially in what is considered the Group of Death. Portugal plays Germany (Monday), the United States (June 22) and Ghana (June 26).
"He looked as though he was over that," Ireland coach Martin O'Neill said about Ronaldo's injuries.
"He, of course, is absolutely vital for Portugal's hopes of doing well. He's obviously one of the two top players playing. It is essential that he went through the game tonight. He will give them a great lift going into the World Cup."
Though he failed to score, Ronaldo did have his moments as the partisan Portuguese crowd cheered every time he carried the ball in the attacking end.
He forced goalkeeper David Forde to save a 20-yard blistering effort in the 13th minute and banged a 28-yard free kick off the right post in the 19th minute.
"Considering he was out [not] competing for a few weeks, I think he did well," Bento said.
Ronaldo played a role in Portugal's third goal as Forde knocked away his header in the 37th minute, but Hugo Almeida converted the rebound for his second goal of the match for a 3-0 lead.
Vieirinha and Fabio Coentrao also scored for Portugal, which was aided by an Irish own goal by Richard Keough. James McClean tallied for Ireland.
"Why should he not do well?" O'Neill said. "They have some very talented players at their disposal."
With a healthy Ronaldo front and center.