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This article was first published 1 year ago  » Sports » PIX: Ronaldo fires Portugal to win; England ease past Ukraine

PIX: Ronaldo fires Portugal to win; England ease past Ukraine

March 27, 2023 10:02 IST
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IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates Portugal's fourth goal against Luxembourg druing the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier match at the Luxembourg Stadium, in Luxembourg City, on Sunday. Photograph: Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

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.

IMAGE: Portugal's players celebrate after Joao Felix scored the fourth goal against Luxembourg. Photograph: Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

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.

Russia win first home international since Ukraine invasion

IMAGE: Russia played their first international match on home soil since November 2021 after being barred from global competitions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Photograph: Igor Russak/Reuters

Russia eased to a 2-0 win over Iraq in a friendly on Sunday as they played their first international match on home soil since November 2021 after being barred from global competitions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Substitute Anton Miranchuk fired Russia ahead shortly after halftime, pouncing on a rebound after Iraq goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachim parried Alexander Sobolev's low shot to his right.

Sergei Pinyaev then grabbed a stylish second, becoming Russia's youngest ever goalscorer in the process at 18 years, four months and 24 days. The Lokomotiv Moscow winger exploited Iraq's high defensive line, before cutting in from the left and squeezing a low shot to the goalkeeper's right.

The hosts dominated possession but struggled to make it pay in the first half, with Ayman Hussein and Ibrahim Bayesh squandering good opportunities for the visitors.

Official attendance at the 68,000-seater Gazprom Arena was 23,818. The stadium had been due to host last year's Champions League final before Russia was stripped of that honour.

Both European soccer body UEFA and global football's governing body FIFA decided in February 2022 that all Russian teams - national or club sides - would be suspended from their competitions following the invasion.

Russia's men have played just four matches since Moscow embarked on what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine, all away from home, winning 2-1 in Kyrgyzstan last September, before draws against Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.

The hosts created a few chances in the first half, with Russia's best moment coming from Danil Fomin, who forced a great save from Hassan Hachim after 36 minutes.

But Iraq came closest to opening the scoring on the counter attack, with Hussein blazing wide from a tight angle, before Bayesh saw his shot from 20 yards saved comfortably by Sergei Pesyakov.

The Russian goalkeeper looked shaky on the ball, almost gifting Iraq a goal twice with loose passes.

Miranchuk squandered a chance to double his tally in the 65th minute, while Sobolev struck the bar with a header two minutes later.

Kane on target again as England ease past Ukraine

IMAGE: Harry Kane scores England's first goal against Ukraine at the Wembley Stadium in London. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Harry Kane underlined his status as England's greatest international goalscorer and Bukayo Saka dazzled again in a comfortable 2-0 win over Ukraine to put Gareth Southgate's team in control of Euro 2024 qualifying Group C on Sunday.

Fresh from scoring his 54th goal in the 2-1 victory over Italy on Thursday, Kane made up for a couple of missed chances to break the stalemate in the 37th minute.

Arsenal youngster Saka, again England's brightest spark, then doubled the lead before halftime with a sensational curler that left the visitors and their 4,000 fans deflated.

Ukraine had their moments and enjoyed some pressure after the interval but never really looked capable of claiming only a second victory over England in 10 attempts.

The second half was tepid although it was noteworthy for an international debut for Brentford forward Ivan Toney who came on 10 minutes from the end as a substitute for Kane.

The 2022 World Cup quarter-finalists have six points from their opening two games and already look firm favourites to top a group that also contains Malta and North Macedonia.

Ukraine, who came agonisingly close to qualifying for the World Cup but lost a playoff to Wales, will be relieved to have got their toughest fixture out of the way.

There was plenty of sympathy for war-ravaged Ukraine around Wembley Stadium with 1,000 tickets donated to refugees and their sponsor families and the country's anthem warmly-applauded.

But all sentiment was put to one side once the whistle sounded with England focussed only on building on their first victory in 62 years against Italy on Italian soil.

It took them a while to get going, however, as Ukraine comfortably kept the hosts at bay for most of the first half.

Kane, who was presented with a golden boot beforehand, missed two routine chances, fluffing a close-range volley and then prodding an inviting Maddison delivery over.

But when he got a third chance he made no mistake.

Having passed the ball out to Saka, the captain then ghosted into the area and was picked out by the Arsenal winger's cross to touch the ball past Ukraine keeper Anatoliy Trubin.

IMAGE: Bukayo Saka produced a goal of stunning quality, turning on to Jordan Henderson's pass and curling a shot into the top corner for his eighth England goal. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Three minutes later Saka produced a goal of stunning quality, turning on to Jordan Henderson's pass and curling a shot into the top corner for his eighth England goal.

The 21-year-old has now had a hand in 10 goals in his last 16 games for England in all competitions.

"It is a top-level finish," Southgate said. "That is the ruthless part he has added to his game in the last 18 months.

"There were times you weren't sure he was going to finish but now he has that confidence in front of goal."

Ukraine, who had a couple of half chances early on, showed plenty of energy after the interval but did not have the quality to ruffle and England side in cruise control.

It could have been a bigger margin of victory if substitutes Conor Gallagher and Jack Grealish, left out in favour of Maddison, had converted chances although by that time thousands of England fans had decided to get to the station early.

Ukraine's fans stayed until the end, however, and gave their team a rousing ovation in a corner that was a sea of yellow and blue. Their next game will be against North Macedonia in June while England are away in Malta next.

Italy back on track with win over Malta

IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate after Matteo Pessina scored the second goal against Malta at the National Stadium in Ta' Qali, Malta. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Goals by forward Mateo Retegui and midfielder Matteo Pessina steered Italy to a 2-0 win over Malta in their Euro 2024 qualification Group C clash at Sunday.

Defending champions Italy were looking to get back on track after starting the campaign with a 2-1 loss against England on Thursday.

"These are games where you have everything to lose and they tend to be ugly. We did some things well, others less so, the important thing was to win," Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI Sport.

"We broke the deadlock early and could’ve scored more, but these matches can be strange."

The hosts started the match very defensively, forcing Italy to build up play slowly from the midfield and look for openings.

Malta could even have taken an early lead when Alexander Satariano managed to send a half-volley towards goal from inside the area, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma got his fingertips on the attempt and pushed the ball over the bar.

However, Italy opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Retegui broke free from his marker to power in a header from a corner with Pessina doubling the lead after 27 minutes when he tapped Emerson's cross in from a short distance.

Vincenzo Grifo was close to make it three for the visitors shortly after but Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello skilfully blocked his attempt.

Italy came close to increasing their lead in the second half when Gianluca Scamacca produced an overhead kick from a corner but Bonello came to the rescue again with a one-handed reaction save.

"We could’ve done everything better, that’s for sure. When you are 2-0 up, you have the chance to play with less pressure and we should’ve made more of that," Mancini said.

England comfortably beat Ukraine 2-0 to put Gareth Southgate's team in control of Group C earlier on Sunday.

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