Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time top scorer in men’s international football with two late goals as Portugal beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1, while holders France drew 1-1 with Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2022 World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.
A day after completing his return to Manchester United, Ronaldo had an early penalty saved by teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in Faro before Ireland took the lead on the stroke of half-time. John Egan’s glancing header put Stephen Kenny’s side on course for a famous win, but Ronaldo broke Irish hearts with an 89th-minute equaliser — a goal that took him past the Iranian Ali Daei’s record of 109.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo then snatched all three points for Portugal in the sixth minute of injury time, rising highest to power in a header from Joao Mario’s right-wing cross. “This record is mine and it is unique. I’m extremely happy and it’s another one for my career,” Ronaldo told RTP public television.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner also equalled Sergio Ramos’s European mark of 180 caps. “(The motivation comes from) the desire I have to continue playing football, also from this last contract I signed (at Manchester United), in which I was happy to return home,” said Ronaldo. “Scoring goals, putting on a show and winning titles, that’s what I like the most.”
Portugal sit top of Group A with 10 points from four matches, although Serbia are only three points behind with a game in hand. The group winners qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Qatar, with the runners-up heading into the play-offs. France, playing for the first time since losing to Switzerland in the last 16 at Euro 2020, fell behind in Strasbourg when Edin Dzeko rifled in a low drive from 20 yards.
Kounde red card
Antoine Griezmann equalized when Dzeko’s header at a corner struck the France forward and bounced just over the line, but the hosts saw Jules Kounde sent off for a reckless tackle early in the second half. France hold a four-point lead at the top of Group D above Ukraine, who conceded a last-gasp goal in a 2-2 draw away to Kazakhstan. Finland are six points adrift but have two games in hand.
“Qualifying stages are difficult,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, whose side go to Kiev next to face Ukraine. “We have to be satisfied with a draw given what happened. We have one point more, there are still lots more available and the match on Saturday is coming very quickly.”
Erling Haaland scored his first World Cup qualifying goal in Norway’s 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Oslo. Haaland’s scrappy finish gave Norway the lead on 20 minutes, but Davy Klaassen levelled before the break as Louis van Gaal began his third stint in charge of the Dutch national team.
One point separates the leading four teams in Group G, with Turkey top despite blowing a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at home to Montenegro. Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, drew 0-0 away to Russia and remain above their opponents on goal difference as leaders of Group H. Slovakia are a point behind after a 1-1 draw with Slovenia. Daniel Wass and Joakim Maehle scored two quick-fire goals as Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark swept Scotland aside 2-0 to make it four wins from four in Group F. The Zionist entity are their nearest challengers after Eran Zahavi bagged a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory in the Faroe Islands. Austria are level on points following their 2-0 win in Moldova. — AFP