LUXEMBOURG: Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in this World Cup qualifying campaign but then inexplicably missed a sitter as Portugal were forced to come from behind to beat Luxembourg 3-1 away last night.
Luxembourg went into the game full of confidence after winning 1-0 at Ireland and they took a shock lead against the European champions when Portuguese-born Gerson Rodrigues, who scored against Ireland, glanced in a header on the half-hour mark.
Portugal went close to levelling on two occasions before Diogo Jota headed in their equaliser in the second minute of added time at the end of the first half.
Ronaldo, who had been denied a goal in the 2-2 draw against Serbia on Saturday despite the ball clearly crossing the line, put Portugal in charge early in the second half, firing into the far bottom corner after combining with Joao Cancelo.
Ronaldo should have scored again later in the half when the ball landed at his feet following a terrible Luxembourg backpass but Portugal’s all-time top scorer shot straight at Anthony Moris, who saved the striker’s second attempt immediately after with his feet.
Substitute Joao Palhinha put Fernando Santos’s side further ahead in the 80th minute by heading home a Pedro Neto corner, also scoring for the first time for his country, while the visitors’ task got easier when Luxembourg’s Maxime Chanot was sent off for a second booking in the 87th.
The victory lifted Portugal to the top of Group A on seven points after three games, level with Serbia, while Luxembourg are third with three points.
Meanwhile, Netherlands’ winger Steven Berghuis scored one goal and set up another as they overcame a wasteful first half to thump minnows Gibraltar 7-0 at the Victoria Stadium.
Luuk de Jong, Memphis Depay, Georginio Wijnaldum and Donyell Malen all also scored as the visitors netted four goals in nine second-half minutes to give an emphatic look to the score after a stuttering opening period frustrated manager Frank de Boer.
Substitute Donny van de Beek added a sixth late on and Depay got his second as the Netherlands recorded their biggest away win since a 7-0 success over San Marino in 1993.
The Dutch moved into second place in Group G with six points from three games, one point behind leaders Turkey who were surprisingly held to a 3-3 draw at home by Latvia.
Daniel James headed a late winner as Wales claimed their first victory in their World Cup qualifying campaign by beating the Czech Republic 1-0 in Cardiff.
The Czechs had enjoyed the better of the Group E clash but with both teams having been reduced to 10 men it was Wales who struck in the 81st minute as James met Gareth Bale’s cross.
Belgium’s second-string used the opportunity of a rare start to impress coach Roberto Martinez as they thumped Belarus 8-0.
With Martinez warning players were under scrutiny for places in the Euro 2020 squad, Michy Batshuayi, Hans Vanaken (2), Leandro Trossard (2), Jeremy Doku, Denis Praet and Christian Benteke all scored as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens were given the night off.
It lifted Belgium to seven points from their opening trio of matches in Group E, while Belarus suffered their first defeat after opening their qualifying bid with a 4-2 win over Estonia at the weekend.
Belgium, top of the FIFA rankings, were 4-0 up at halftime at Den Dreef as they inflicted Belarus’ heaviest ever defeat.