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Euro qualifiers, PIX: Ronaldo stars in Lithuania thumping; Eng win

September 11, 2019 10:33 IST

IMAGES from the Euro 2020 qualifiers

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo shoots during the Euro 2020 Qualifier Group B match against Lithuania at LFF Stadium, in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday

IMAGE: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo shoots during the Euro 2020 Qualifier Group B match against Lithuania at LFF Stadium, in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday. Photograph: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo took his international tally to 93 goals when he scored four times to give the European champions a 5-1 win away to Lithuania in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Tuesday.

 

Playing in his 161st international, the 34-year-old notched his eighth hat-trick for his country and the 54th of his remarkable career to help Portugal through what had threatened to turn into a frustrating evening.

Unheralded midfielder William Carvalho completed the rout in stoppage time as Portugal stayed second in Group B with eight points, five behind leaders Ukraine with one game in hand.

Serbia are a further point behind in third after a 3-1 win in Luxemburg.

"I scored one goal against Serbia and four today and what I want most is to continue like this," said Ronaldo, who converted an early penalty and then added three second-half goals.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said: "Ronaldo is the best player in the world, this is clear and unmistakable proof".

Lithuania, bottom with one point, missed an early chance when Vykintas Slivka fired over from close range and they quickly paid the price when Markus Palionis handled a Joao Felix cross and Ronaldo put away the spot kick in the fifth minute.

Lithuania goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus made an excellent save to prevent Edvinas Girdvainis turning the ball into his own net but Vytautas Andriuskevicius then grabbed a surprise equaliser, rising above his marker to head home from a corner in the 28th.

Ronaldo set up good chances for Felix and Bernardo Silva, which were wasted, after the break before taking matters into his own hands.

Just as Portugal were beginning to show signs of frustration, Ronaldo produced a low shot which bobbled twice in front of Setkus in the 62nd minute. The Lithuania goalkeeper got his hand to it, but it hit his head and bounced into the net.

Three minutes later, Ronaldo was left free in the area to sweep home Bernardo Silva's cross and Silva also provided the pass for Ronaldo to sidefoot his fourth 11 minutes later.

Carvalho's goal, his fourth in 60 games, was a fitting reward for a player who keeps the Portugal midfield ticking over without getting much attention.

"I'm convinced that these players are capable of finishing top of this group," said Santos.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice to keep Serbia's hopes alive with a win in Luxemburg. He headed Serbia in front after 36 minutes and Nemanja Radonjic curled in the second 10 minutes after the restart.

Substitute David Turpel pulled one back and Serbia were on the ropes until Sergej Milinkovic-Savic produced a delightful reverse pass for Mitrovic to fire in the third.

Erratic England beat spirited Kosovo in eight-goal thriller

England's Raheem Sterling rises to head a goal into the net during their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group A match against Kosovo at St Mary's Stadium, in Southampton, Britain on Tuesday

IMAGE: England's Raheem Sterling rises to head a goal into the net during their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group A match against Kosovo at St Mary's Stadium, in Southampton, Britain on Tuesday. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

England's march towards the Euro 2020 finals continued but not quite in the manner they might have expected as they beat a brave and enterprising Kosovo side 5-3 in an extraordinary Group A qualifier at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday.

Valon Berisha gave 120th-ranked Kosovo the lead after 35 seconds but England hit back seven minutes later through Raheem Sterling's header and the rampant hosts led 5-1 at the interval with a double for teenager Jadon Sancho.

Kosovo, surprisingly second in the group just a point behind England at kickoff, were not about to depart the biggest night in their short footballing history quietly though and exposed worrying weaknesses in England's defence.

Within 10 minutes of the restart they had scored twice through Berisha and a penalty by Vedat Muriqi, rattling England and leaving manager Gareth Southgate frowning.

"Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know," Southgate said.

"In many ways it was a better experience than strolling through the game at five, six (goals) or whatever, even though we probably all could have done without it."

Harry Kane, who scored England's second goal, had a penalty saved by Arijanet Muric and Sterling then hit the post but Kosovo were still going forward until the final whistle and Bersant Celina went close to making it 5-4.

England, who conceded three at home for the first time since 2012, lead the group with a maximum 12 points having scored 19 goals in the process. Kosovo dropped to third with eight points, one behind the CzechRepublic who beat Montenegro 3-0 away.

"We’ve seen the high level and we lost some unnecessary balls and were immediately in danger," said Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes, who was upbeat despite the defeat.

"We’ve seen in such situations how we can do better. But if we see the second half we can be proud of this team, they showed good football and they don’t give up -- they play as a team.”

Kosovo, who had been on a 15-match unbeaten run coming into the England game, will still believe they can qualify for their first tournament finals, just four years after gaining international status from world soccer's governing body FIFA.

England can clinch qualification for the finals with a win away to the CzechRepublic in their next game on October 11.

Southgate had warned beforehand of Kosovo's threat and it took only 35 seconds to materialise, albeit from a dreadful mistake by England defender Michael Keane.

Without looking, he played a casual pass across his area and the gift was accepted by Muriqi who intercepted and played in Berisha to clip a fine finish past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

That lit the touchpaper for a stunning opening half in which England's attacking play was devastating.

The home side were level seven minutes later with Keane making up for his error by heading Ross Barkley's corner across goal for Sterling to nod a real poacher's goal -- his sixth in four Euro 2020 qualifying games.

So often forced to break down massed defences, England were relishing the wide open spaces left by an attack-minded Kosovo.

After 19 minutes Sterling spun his marker on the halfway line, accelerated forward and slipped a weighted pass to Kane who fired the ball under the body of Muric.

Kosovo were still very much in the game but their big night began to unravel as England struck three goals in seven minutes.

Challandes was furious as play was allowed to continue in the 38th minute with a Kosovo player down injured and his mood darkened when Mergim Vojvoda, who minutes earlier fired just wide, tapped in an own goal from Sancho's low cross.

Sterling then made two jet-heeled bursts to provide Borussia Dortmund teenager Sancho with his first senior England goals.

Kosovo could have been excused for shutting up shop after the break to try and keep the score down but that does not appear to be in the DNA of Challandes's side.

In the 49th minute Muriqi's floated pass found Berisha who took a sublime touch before beating Pickford and six minutes later Muriqi converted a penalty after being brought down by Harry Maguire to give Kosovo hope of an incredible comeback.

England were never really totally in control but Kane wasted the chance to settle the jitters when his penalty was read by Muric who dived to his right to save well and the Nottingham Forest keeper then turned Sterling's shot against the post.

Coman scores again as France beat Andorra 3-0

France's Clement Lenglet celebrates with Olivier Giroud and teammates after scoring their second goal against Andorra in their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group H match at Stade De France in Saint-Denis, France, on Tuesday

IMAGE: France's Clement Lenglet celebrates with Olivier Giroud and teammates after scoring their second goal against Andorra in their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group H match at Stade De France in Saint-Denis, France, on Tuesday. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reutesr

France forward Kingsley Coman grabbed his third goal in two matches as he inspired the hosts to a 3-0 win against Andorra in their Euro 2020 Group H qualifier on Tuesday.

The pacy Coman, who got a double in Saturday's 4-1 win over Albania, put France ahead in the first half and hit the woodwork in the second with Clement Lenglet also finding the net after the break and Wissam Ben Yedder scoring in stoppage time.

The world champions stay second in the section with 15 points from six games, level with leaders Turkey who won 4-0 away to Moldova helped by a Cenk Tosun double.

Third-placed Iceland slipped three points behind the pacesetters after being sunk by late goals for Albania from Odise Roshi and Sokol Cikalleshi in a 4-2 away defeat.

France, who have the best goal difference but are second by virtue of losing in Istanbul in June, face a potential group final against Turkey at the Stade de France next month.

The top two teams qualify for next year's finals.

"We wanted to make the most of our home advantage and take six points from these two games, job done," said Antoine Griezmann, who missed his second penalty in two games after also misfiring from the spot against Albania.

"Missing another penalty is annoying but it shows you have to work constantly, you're never at the top," he said.

Coach Didier Deschamps rued several missed opportunities but he could be satisfied with France taking a maximum six points.

"It's good even if with all our chances we should have scored more," he said. "We have a lot of quality players in attack."

In the absence of injured forward Kylian Mbappe, France benefited from the strength of their squad.

They went ahead when Coman collected a through ball from Jonathan Ikone, held off a couple of defenders in the box and coolly slotted past Josep Gomes after 18 minutes.

Griezmann could have doubled the tally 10 minutes later after he was brought down but his spot kick was saved by Gomes.

Andorra, however, were toothless, while Gomes saved them again on the half-hour by tipping Raphael Varane's fierce 30-metre shot over the bar.

Griezmann made up for his missed penalty seven minutes into the second half when he delivered a perfect free kick for Lenglet to make it 2-0 with a header.

Les Bleus had several chances to wrap up the points after the interval but Moussa Sissoko and Coman both hit the bar.

But second-half substitute Ben Yedder poked the ball home in added time to complete the victory after Gomes parried a powerful Nabil Fekir free kick into his path.

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