The World Cup began in cruel fashion for Mohammed Salisu and Ghana, as the Black Stars fell to a narrow 3-2 defeat to Portugal in Group H.
Named in the starting eleven, the Saints defender was at the heart of a moment of controversy which brought the game’s opening goal on 65 minutes.
Having helped marshal Ghana’s back five to keep it goalless at the halfway stage, referee Ismail Elfath harshly penalised Salisu’s challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo in the box, despite replays suggesting the Saints defender got a toe to the ball.
From the spot, Ronaldo made no mistake to score in a fifth World Cup, mirroring the penalty he scored against the Black Stars at the 2014 tournament in Germany.
Sensing injustice, Otto Addo’s side rallied and struck back eight minutes later, with Andre Ayew converting Mohammed Kudus’s low cross.
With the game now opening up, Portugal flexed their attacking prowess with two goals in a little over two minutes, as João Félix and substitute Rafael Leão rapidly produced a two-goal lead to seemingly put the game beyond doubt.
However, Salisu's involvement in the game was not done, as his inch-perfect ball over the top allowed Baba Rahman to loop a cross in towards Osman Bukari, who headed home in the 89th minute to set up a tense conclusion with nine minutes of additional time still to come.
Throwing everything at Portugal, Iñaki Williams almost levelled in astonishing fashion with the last kick of the game, when goalkeeper Diogo Costa inadvertently presented the Athletic Club striker with the ball inside the box, only for an untimely slip from Williams to allow Fernando Santos’s side to hold on to a dramatic three points.
Salisu and Ghana are next in action on Monday, dusting themselves down for what is now a must-win meeting with South Korea, who drew their opening Group H match with Uruguay 0-0.