Football Cristiano Ronaldo goal nets Portugal Euro 2020 berth
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Cristiano Ronaldo goal nets Portugal Euro 2020 berth

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal with Diogo Jota. Photo: Getty
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Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as the defending champions edged past Luxembourg 2-0 in difficult conditions away from home to qualify for Euro 2020.

Bruno Fernandes broke the deadlock in the 39th minute and Ronaldo wrapped it up with four minutes left to ensure that Portugal finished second in Group B with 17 points, three ahead of Serbia who drew 2-2 with Ukraine.

Diogo Jota’s shot appeared to be going in anyway but Ronaldo prodded it over to claim the goal.

One more goal will see him join Iran’s Ali Daei in having scored a century of goals for a national team.

Portugal survived several early scares as they struggled to impose their game on a rain-soaked pitch full of divots at the Josy Barthel stadium on Sunday.

Ronaldo, in particular, was not enjoying the conditions and gestured angrily at the pitch after sending a speculative wide in the first half.

Needing a win to qualify without having to worry about Serbia’s result, Portugal were in trouble early on as Luxembourg saw a chance to spring an upset.

Maurice Deville got above his marker and headed over from Laurent Jans’ cross and Vincent Thill, a thorn in Portugal’s side, had a goal-bound shot blocked by Ruben Dias.

Luxembourg were even closer when a corner found Gerons Rodrigues unmarked but he headed over.

Portugal began to adapt to the conditions and their more direct approach was rewarded with a goal.

Bernardo Silva floated a pass over the Luxembourg defence from deep inside his own half and into the path of Fernandes who took it superbly in his stride and fired a low shot between Anthony Moris and the near post.

The second half was more comfortable for Portugal as they dominated possession although there still anxious moments.

Ronaldo nearly sealed it when he curled a free kick narrowly wide from the edge of the area.

With four minutes left, Silva’s cross found Jota and Moris got a hand to it but could not stop it crossing the line and Ronaldo poked it home for good measure.

A stoppage time equaliser by late substitute Artem Besyedin gave Ukraine a 2-2 draw in Serbia after the home side led twice in the Group B qualifier on Sunday.

The Ukrainians, who had already secured a berth in next year’s 24-nation tournament, finished their campaign top of the group on 20 points from eight games.

A mere 4000 fans turned up at Rajko Mitic stadium although Serbia started the game with an outside chance of qualifying and the home side treated their supporters to a solid performance.

England secured a place among the top six seeds after three late goals helped them to a 4-0 win in Kosovo in their final qualifier on Sunday.

England, already assured of a place at the finals, finished top of Group A with 21 points from eight games, their only blip being last month’s 2-1 defeat in the Czech Republic, who have qualified as runners-up.

In a subdued and sloppy first half England found a way through only once, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slipped a pass for Harry Winks to tuck home his first international goal after 32 minutes.

Captain Harry Kane then struck his 12th goal of the campaign in the 79th minute, Marcus Rashford added the third with a neat finish four minutes later and Mason Mount completed the scoring in stoppage time to give some gloss to the scoreline.

Kosovo finished third on 11 points. Their chances of automatic qualification disappeared after a 2-1 defeat by the Czechs on Thursday but they could advance via the playoffs.