Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way as Portugal hit six of the best

Euro 2024 qualifier
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo (right) shoots and scores his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Euro 2024 group J qualification football match between Luxembourg and Portugal at the Stade de Luxembourg, in Luxembourg, on March 26, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

LUXEMBOURG, March 27: Cristiano Ronaldo continued his record-breaking form for Portugal as he grabbed two more goals in his country’s 6-0 thrashing of Luxembourg in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday, giving them a second win in four days.
The 38-year-old grabbed a double against Liechtenstein on Thursday and scored twice more in Luxembourg to extend his record tally of international goals to 122 in 198 appearances.
Joao Felix, Bernando Silva, Otavio and Rafael Leao added the other goals to put Portugal top of Group J after an easy start to their qualifying campaign.
New coach Roberto Martinez restored Ronaldo to the starting line-up last week and kept faith with him for the match in Luxembourg, where it took only nine minutes for the veteran superstar to open the scoring as he touched home Nuno Mendes’s soaring header.
Joao Felix doubled the lead in the 15th minute, rising high to get onto the end of Silva’s cross. Silva then himself headed home a powerful effort three minutes later after being set up by Joao Palhinha.
Bruno Fernandes set up Ronaldo for the fourth, just past the half hour mark, with a ball over the defence that was finished with pin-point accuracy.
Luxembourg looked bedraggled in the first half but offered more resistance after the break before Rafael Leao’s looping cross allowed fellow substitute Otavio to head home Portugal’s fifth.
Ruben Neves, yet to score for Portugal, struck the crossbar with a 83rd minute freekick before a penalty was awarded straight after when Luxembourg captain Laurent Jans tripped Rafael Leao.
The AC Milan forward got up off the turf to take the kick but his effort was saved by Luxembourg keeper Anthony Moris.
But Rafael Leao ran half the length of the field to latch onto Reuben Neves’ pass and cut inside before squeezing the ball home for a 6-0 scoreline with two minutes remaining.
England see off Ukraine in Euro qualifying, Kazakhs stun Denmark
Harry Kane scored as England defeated Ukraine 2-0 in Euro 2024 qualifying at Wembley on Sunday. On the other hand, Denmark were defeated by Kazakhstan.
Captain Kane, who broke Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goalscoring record in midweek, turned home his 55th international goal from Bukayo Saka’s cross in the 37th minute.
In-form Arsenal winger Saka all but ended Ukraine’s resistance three minutes later, turning from Jordan Henderson’s pass and curling a sublime strike from outside the area into the top corner.
The victory takes England three points clear at the top of the early Group C table after winning in Italy for the first time since 1961 on Thursday.
“Two wins out of two is all we asked for at the start of the camp,” midfielder Jude Bellingham told Channel 4.
“We’ve followed up a really good result in Italy with another one tonight and when you do that, it feels rewarding.”
Gareth Southgate’s men produced an accomplished performance in their first home game since an agonising World Cup quarter-final defeat by France last December.
Kane missed one great early chance before he gave England the lead.
Ukraine failed to muster a shot on target and Conor Gallagher, Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish all went close to netting a third for the hosts late on.
England, still waiting for a first major tournament title since 1966, return to qualifying action against Malta and North Macedonia in June.
The top two teams in each group will automatically book a place in next year’s European Championship in Germany.
Denmark blew a two-goal lead to crash to a surprise 3-2 defeat in Kazakhstan.
The Euro 2020 semi-finalists appeared to be cruising to victory in the Group H match as Atalanta youngster Rasmus Hojlund netted twice in the first half after scoring a hat-trick against Finland on Thursday.
Kazakhstan had started their bid to qualify for a first ever major tournament with a home defeat by Slovenia.
But Bakhtiyor Zaynutdinov’s 73rd-minute penalty gave the hosts hope of a famous turnaround in Astana.
Midfielder Askhat Tagybergen crashed a long-range drive past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel with four minutes of normal time remaining to equalise.
Substitute Abat Aymbetov provided the golden moment for Kazakhstan — who have already at least secured a Euro 2024 play-off spot through the Nations League — leaping to power a header into the top corner in the 89th minute.
He was later sent off for a second yellow card but by then had already grabbed all three points.
Slovenia battled to a 2-0 victory over San Marino in the second Group H match to move top of the early standings.
Elsewhere, Iceland bounced back from their opening defeat by Bosnia and Herzegovina in Group J by thrashing Liechtenstein 7-0.
Later on Sunday, Italy take on Malta and Portugal play Luxembourg.
(Agencies/ToI With inputs from AFP)