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regular-article-logo Friday, 01 March 2024

European Championship qualifier: Cristiano Ronaldo nets in 200th game, Erling Haaland betters Kylian Mbappe

For me it’s an unbelievable achievement, says Ronaldo

AP/PTI, Reuters Berlin Published 22.06.23, 06:46 AM
Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo. File photo

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first men’s player to make 200 international appearances and celebrated the milestone by scoring the winning goal in the 89th minute as Portugal beat Iceland 1-0 in an European Championship qualifier.

The 38-year-old Ronaldo was honoured by Guinness World Records before kick-off for reaching 200 games for Portugal almost 20 years after he made his debut.

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And he was celebrating at the end, too, after being on hand to score the later winner from close range on Tuesday and keep Portugal on track for Euro 2024 qualification with their fourth win from four games in Group J.

Erling Haaland scored twice in Norway’s 3-1 win at home over Cyprus, as did Romelu Lukaku in Belgium’s 3-0 victory over Estonia.

But another star forward — Robert Lewandowski — was left disappointed as his Poland team squandered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 away to Moldova.

Double bonanza

Ronaldo padded his record for international goals as well, by netting his 123rd for Portugal — making it another memorable night for the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star.

“So happy. It’s that kind of moment that you never expect to do it, 200 caps. For me it’s an unbelievable achievement,” Ronaldo told Uefa’s website. “Of course, to score the winning goal, it’s even more special.”

Ronaldo’s teammates Rafael Leao and Bruno Fernandes had looked more likely top provide an opening in Reykjavik, until Iceland midfielder Willum Willumsson was sent off with 10 minutes of normal time remaining for a second yellow card.

Ronaldo had missed several chances and was booked for diving in the 83rd, before he finally got the winner when Goncalo Inacio headed the ball down for the forward to score from close range. Even then there was an anxious wait for a VAR check before Ronaldo could celebrate in his own distinctive style.

Also, Luxembourg upset Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 away thanks to goals from Danel Sinani and Yvandro Borges Sanches, while Slovakia beat Liechtenstein 1-0.

Back on track

Despite Haaland’s goals for Norway, Scotland stayed top of Group A with a 2-0 win over Georgia in a game that was suspended for about 1 hour, 40 minutes because of heavy rain and a waterlogged field.

Callum McGregor gave hosts an early lead before play was suspended. Scott McTominay made it 2-0 early in the second half despite lots of water still on the field.

It was Scotland’s fourth win from four games and it lifted the team four points above Georgia.

Norway are third with four points from four games, while Spain are a point further back after playing just two. Spain won the Nations League on Sunday.

Norway broke the deadlock in the 12th minute as Alexander Sorloth’s cross from the right flew just over Haaland’s but dropped perfectly for Ola Solbakken to blast home his first international goal.

Haaland converted a penalty in the 56th minute and followed that up with another powerful finish on the hour to take his season tally to 56 goals, the most of any player in the top five European leagues and two more than France’s Kylian Mbappe.

Grigoris Kastanos scored a stoppage-time consolation for the visitors to reduce the deficit but it could not spoil the party as the Norwegians chalked up their first win in the group.

Poland lose

Lewandowski scored but couldn’t prevent Poland slumping to a loss in Moldova, their second in three games.

Albania earned a 3-1 away win over the Faeroe Islands to stay second in the group, one point behind the Czech Republic after three games played.

Poland dropped to second last in the group with three points. Lukaku scored twice in the space of three minutes to lead Belgium to a 3-0 win in Estonia. Lukaku broke the deadlock with a flick after an uneventful first half-hour.

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