Luxembourg 1-3 Portugal: European champions survive early scare as Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Palhinha see goals from minnows
Portugal avoided a huge shock when Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue to seal a come-from-behind victory over European minnows Luxembourg in their Group A World Cup qualifier.
The reigning European champion was stunned after half an hour when Gerson Rodrigues buried a powerful header home behind Anthony Lopes to shock the minnows.
Portugal tied the score just before half-time when former Wolves teammates Pedro Neto and Diogo Jota combined, with Liverpool star Jota throwing a header into the net after a cross from the youngster.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) completed a turnaround as Portugal avoided a scare for Luxembourg
Gerson Rodrigues gave the minnows a shock lead after burying a header home in the first half
The attacker, who practices his profession for Dynamo Kiev, celebrates after scoring the opening goal
Luxembourg (4-1-4-1): Moris; Jans, Chanot, Gerson, Goncalves Pinto (Martins 65); Martins (Skenderovic 88), O. Thill (S. Thill 58), Barreiro Martins, V. Thill (Deville 58), Rodrigues; Sinani (Muratovic 88)
Subs not used: Bohnert, Dzogovic, Fox, Mahutoic, Rupil, Schon
Scorers: Rodrigues (30)
Manager: Luc Holtz
Portugal (4-3-3): Lopes; Mendes, Dias, Fonte, Cancelo; B. Silva (Palhinha, 68), Sanches, Neves (Oliveira 89); Felix (P. Neto 41), Ronaldo, Jota (R. Silva 68)
Subs not used: Duarte, Jose Sa, Neto, A. Silva, Rafa, Soares
Booked: Jota, Dias, Sanches
Scorers: Jota (45 + 2), Ronaldo (51), Palhinha (80)
Manager: Fernando Santos
Ronaldo, who was denied a goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Serbia despite the ball clearly crossing the line, gave Portugal the lead early in the second half, firing into the far bottom corner following a combination with Joao Cancelo.
Ronaldo should have scored again when the ball landed at his feet after a terrible Luxembourg backpass, but the Portuguese top scorer of all time shot straight to Anthony Moris, who immediately saved the striker’s second attempt with his feet.
Substitute Joao Palhinha put Fernando Santos’ side further ahead in the 80th minute by heading in a corner kick from Pedro Neto, his first goal for his country.
The task then became easier when Luxembourg’s Maxime Chanot was sent for a second booking in the 87th.
The win brought Portugal to the top of Group A with seven points after three games, level with Serbia, while Luxembourg is third with three points.
Despite the win, Portuguese coach Santos was fiercely critical of how his team started the game.
‘We played at walking pace for the first half hour, without intensity at both ends of the field. I had to tell the players that we weren’t going to win the game on quality alone and that we needed to make our game more intense, ”he said.
‘If we rely solely on our quality, any opponent can get us in trouble. We remembered that suddenly, we grew in the game and got the vital equalizer.
“In the second half we won every ball, we played intensely and suddenly Luxembourg looked like a different team.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates gave a dejected cut after admitting
Diogo Jota tied the score before half time after a combination with ex-Wolves teammate Pedro Neto
The Liverpool star rides off in a festive manner after drawing the scores before half-time
Ronaldo then put the European champion in the lead after passing a cross from Joao Cancelo
Ronaldo celebrates with the Man City star and Neto after putting Fernando Santos’ side ahead
The 36-year-old raises his fist to celebrate as the European champion pushed the top of group A.
Joao Palhinha, midfielder of Sporting Lisbon, took the victory after a cross from Neto
Portgual celebrates after Palhinha’s header from Neto’s corner showed the result without a doubt