World Cup qualifiers: Ronaldo scoreless as Portugal top Azerbaijan, Belgium, Czech Republic win; France draw

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Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless as Portugal wanted an own-goal to defeat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Group A of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

The Thirty sixth-minute winner got here after Azerbaijan goalkeeper Shahruddin Mahammadaliyev tried to punch the ball out of the realm and it ricocheted into the online off captain Maksim Medvedev.

Ronaldo’s fruitless night left him seven objectives away from changing into the all-time top scorer for a nationwide crew. The document of 109 objectives is held by former Iran striker Ali Daei, the one different male soccer participant to surpass the 100-goal milestone for a nationwide crew.

Ronaldo got here near scoring a few occasions from free kicks. He will get different possibilities to maneuver nearer to the document when Portugal visits Serbia on Saturday and Luxembourg on Tuesday.

The match was held in Turin, Italy, the place Ronaldo performs with Juventus, due to the coronavirus scenario in Portugal.

Azerbaijan gained solely certainly one of its final 9 World Cup qualifiers — in opposition to San Marino in 2017. It misplaced seven occasions in that streak.

In the opposite Group A match, Aleksandar Mitrovic got here off the bench to attain a pair of second-half objectives as Serbia got here from behind to defeat Ireland 3-2 in Belgrade.

Alan Browne scored Ireland’s first purpose within the 18th and James Collins added the second within the 86th. Dusan Vlahovic put Serbia on the board within the fortieth.

The outcome saved Ireland coach Stephen Kenny winless in his first 9 matches in command of a crew making an attempt to make it to the World Cup for the primary time since 2002.

France draw 1-1 with Ukraine, Finland held 2-2 at house

France’s Antoine Griezmann, second left, celebrates after scoring opening purpose through the World Cup 2022 group D qualifying match between France and Ukraine on the Start de de France stadium, in Saint Denis, north of Paris, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Defending champion France opened its qualifying marketing campaign for the 2022 World Cup with a tame 1-1 draw in opposition to Ukraine, whereas Bosnia-Herzegovina scored late to draw 2-2 away in opposition to Finland in Wednesday’s different Group D sport.

Barcelona ahead Antoine Griezmann confirmed his return to type with the opening purpose within the nineteenth minute. But an personal purpose from central defender Presnel Kimpembe gifted Ukraine an equalizer within the 57th at an empty Stade de France.

Goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan did nicely to maintain out a close-range effort from Olivier Giroud early on. But he was overwhelmed when Griezmann curled in a shot from simply inside the precise of the penalty space into the left nook.

With his thirty fourth worldwide purpose, Griezmann moved stage with David Trezeguet in fourth place on France’s scoring listing. Thierry Henry leads with 51.

Giroud has been struggling to get a sport for Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel changed Frank Lampard as coach. He regarded a bit rusty and headed over close to the break with a good probability.

Ukraine equalized when Sergii Sydorchuk’s shot clipped Kimpembe as he went to shut the midfielder down, and the ball wrongfooted goalie Hugo Lloris earlier than rolling slowly over the road.

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who reached 100 league objectives final weekend, had a poor sport for France and was changed by Anthony Martial for the final quarter-hour.

PUKKI DOUBLE

In Helsinki, striker Teemu Pukki netted twice however Finland couldn’t maintain on for the win.

Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic had put the guests forward within the fifty fifth. But Pukki, who has netted 22 objectives for promotion-chasing Norwich in England’s second tier, equalized three minutes later and put the Finns forward within the 77th.

But neither crew may management the sport and winger Miroslav Stevanovic made it 2-2 with six minutes left.

France travels to Kazakhstan and Ukraine hosts Finland in Sunday’s video games.

Belgium win opener, Czech Republic thrash Estonia

Belgium vs Wales Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, left, vies for the ball with Wales’ Neco Williams throughout a World Cup 2022 group E qualifying match between Belgium and Wales on the King Power stadium in Leuven, Belgium, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Top-ranked Belgium produced a subdued however managed show to start out its qualifying marketing campaign for the 2022 World Cup with a 3-1 win over Wales on Wednesday, whereas Czech Republic hammered Estonia 6-2 within the group’s different sport.

After conceding an early purpose, the Belgians shortly recovered with objectives from Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard and Romelu Lukaku to place an finish to their four-game winless run in opposition to Wales and avenge a 3-1 loss on the 2016 European championship of their earlier assembly.

“We were very confident and we managed to turn the situation around,” Belgium midfielder Thomas Meunier mentioned.

In Lublin, Estonia scored an early purpose however couldn’t maintain on to its lead as Tomas Soucek netted a hat trick for the Czechs.

The Belgians, who top the FIFA world rankings, journey to the Czech Republic on Saturday in Group E.

Having misplaced midfielder Joe Allen simply seven minutes into the match due to muscle damage, Wales regarded set for a troublesome night at Den Dreef stadium within the metropolis of Leuven.

But it was as a substitute the hosts who have been caught chilly after a succession of fast passes that opened the Belgium protection on the break. The transfer was concluded by Harry Wilson, who beat Thibaut Courtois with a low shot from Gareth Bale’s first-touch help.

Belgium was left unimpressed and obtained a fast equalizer. Lurking close to the field unmarked, De Bruyne was arrange by Hazard, discovered some area and unleashed a exact shot from the sting of the realm into the online within the twenty second minute.

Wales was made to pay for its sloppy defending six minutes later as Hazard linked with a cross from Meunier on the far submit and headed house after his marker fell down on the turf.

Belgium then took management of the midfield as Wales struggled to string passes collectively.

The guests imposed a powerful press in the beginning of the second half and pushed greater up the pitch, however struggled to create possibilities regardless of having fun with extra possession. Belgium doubled its lead after Chris Mepham fouled Dries Mertens within the field as Lukaku — Belgium’s all-time top scorer — cooly transformed from the spot to attain his 58th purpose in 90 matches with the nationwide crew.

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