Cristiano Ronaldo entered the match against Luxembourg two short of scoring his 100th international goal and although he couldn’t get to the landmark, the striker scored a crucial 86th minute goal as defending champions Portugal secured their berth at the Euro 2020.
Bruno Fernandes scored the opening goal in the 39th minute when he fired in a cross from Bernardo Silva. Despite trailing 0-1, Luxembourg gave nothing away, making Portugal work hard. The 96th-ranked team in the world, who held France to a goalless draw in the 2018 World Cup qualifier kept coming at Portugal, occasionally putting the defending champions under the pump.
The Luxembourg fans had some fun at the expense of Ronaldo as they kept chanting Messi everytime the ball came to him. But four minutes before time, the striker stole Diogo Jota’s goal and silenced the opposition. Silva’s far-post cross was forced towards goal by Jota, with Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goal line. It would have been Jota’s first-ever international goal.
Ronaldo, who is 10 behind Portugal’s all-time goal-scorer Ali Daei’s tally of 109 goals informed he was yet to regain full fitness, having been replaced in Juventus’ last two games, but sounded extremely confident of surpassing Daie. Ronaldo, however, must wait till March to become Portugal’s second footballer with 100 goals or more.
“All records must be broken and I will beat that record,” he said. “I wasn’t 100 percent and I’m still not. In the last three weeks, I have played at a slightly reduced capacity. But when it comes to sacrificing myself for my club and my national team, I do it with pride.”
England pummelled Kosovo 4-0 with Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Marcus Rushford and Mason Mount registering themselves on the scoresheet. The win ensured England finished top of Group A with 21 points and will be among the top six seeds when the Euro 2020 kicks off in June next year.
Although their performance was far from convincing, England maintained the lead they first attained in the 32nd minute. They were given an early lead as Winks scored his first international goal. The 23-year-old Spurs midfielder collected a pass from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and got himself enough space to slot the ball past the goalkeeper with utmost composure.
In the next half hour, England appeared scratchy, losing possession frequently but late goals from Kane, Rashford and Mount put the game beyond conclusion. Kane scored his 12th goal of the competition with a crisp shot after Kosovo could not clear a pass from Raheem Sterling. Three minutes later, Sterling was in action again, this time assisting Rashford, who converted the chance.
A minute into stoppage time, Mount came in as substitute picked a clever pass from Kane and extended the scoreline further.
“It was a tight game and a good test for us really,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “It was a difficult pitch, with players slipping and passes going astray. We needed a tighter game and a challenge. I’m happy we got that. We had to sustain spells of pressure and gave them chances – on another night that would be a problem. But attacking we were ruthless.”