Cristiano Ronaldo broke Ali Daei’s international men’s scoring record in dramatic fashion with two late goals to help Portugal beat Republic of Ireland 2-1.
However, Ronaldo came to the rescue with an equaliser in the 89th minute that saw him move onto 110 international goals, one ahead of former Iran striker Daei.
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Ronaldo then netted again in injury-time – his 49th goal in his last 47 Portugal appearances – to give his side a winning start in World Cup qualifying Group A.
The hosts provided all of the early pressure as Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo looked lively up top.
They had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Fernandes was taken down by Jeff Hendrick inside the box as Ireland gave the ball away trying to play their way out of defence. After a lengthy VAR check, Ronaldo stepped up for a penalty only for 19-year-old Gavin Bazunu to produce a stunning diving save to his right.
Ireland grew into the game as Portugal ran out of ideas, and after Aaron Connolly and Jamie McGrath shot wide, Egan gave his nation an unexpected lead with his first international goal, rising highest at a corner and glancing the ball into the net past a helpless Rui Patricio.
The hosts made the stronger start to the second half but it was Ireland who had the best chance to double their lead, only for Connolly to blaze desperately over from six yards. With the visitors tiring, Portugal pressed for the leveller with Ronaldo dropping deeper to help his side as Ireland squeezed their opponent’s forward line out of the box.
Ireland intercepted every pass, blocked every shot and cleared every cross, limiting their opponents to speculative efforts as they tried to hold on.
But almost inevitably, Ronaldo grabbed the leveller and a record-breaking 110th international goal as he leapt highest with a trademark header just minutes from time.
And then again, six minutes into stoppage-time, Ronaldo was there once again, soaring above the rest to win it with another header from Pope’s cross to the despair of Ireland after a gutsy performance.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Cristiano Ronaldo
Stole the award off the brilliant Bazunu with the late brace that nicked all three points for Portugal. Still the very best.
TALKING POINT – Brilliant Ronaldo breaks record
If Manchester United fans could be any more excited by Ronaldo’s return, they should be now. The 36-year-old has once again shown his value and proven he is no waning power after a brilliant late brace stole the show and stole all three points.
He can still jump higher than anybody else and nobody heads a ball like that in world football. Now with 111 international goals, he is the outright top scorer in men’s international football, and he’s not nearly done yet.
Portugal: Patricio 5, Cancelo 6, Pepe 5, Dias 6, Guerreiro6, Palhinha 6, Fernandes 5, B Silva 6, R Silva 5, Jota 6, Ronaldo 9. Subs. Mario 6, A Silva 6, Mendes 5, Guedes n/a.
Ireland: Bazunu 8, Coleman 7, Duffy 6, Egan 7, Cullen 6, Doherty 6, Idah 7, Hendrick 5, McGrath 7, O’Shea 5, Connolly. Subs. McClean 6, Omobamidele 7, Collins n/a, Molymby n/a.
10´- PENALTY TO PORTUGAL! Hendrick brings down Fernandes…it´s a total gift! Yellow for Hendrick. Again, Ireland trying to play out from the back, get caught in possession and Hendrick takes out Fernandes before he can latch on to the lose ball.
15´- PENALTY SAVED! WHAT A SAVE! RONALDO´S RECORD DENIED 19-YEAR-OLD BAZUNU DIVES TO HIS RIGHT AND KEEPS OUT RONALDO!
45´- GOAL! PORTUGAL 0 IRELAND 1 (Egan). WHAT IS THIS? WHAT A MOMENT! Egan leaps highest at the corner and glances the ball into the bottom corner. Brilliant half from Ireland and that´s the reward.
89´- GOAL! PORTUGAL 1 IRELAND 1 (Ronaldo 89´). HE´S GOT IT! 110! THE LEVELLER! Moments after Bizunu produced a brilliant save to deny Ronaldo´s free-kick, he´s there once again with a trademark header planted into the corner. It´s a cruel game, and we´re all square!
90+5´- GOAL! PORTUGAL 2 IRELAND 1 (Ronaldo 90+5´). HE´S WON IT! RONALDO GETS HIS 111TH GOAL AND A WINNER FOR PORTUGAL! It´s so cruel after such a gutsy performance from Ireland but what can you do? Ronaldo rises highest to another cross and sends another unstoppable header into the net. It´s a brilliant header and he tears his shirt off in celebration.
Cristiano Ronaldo is now the all-time leading goalscorer in men´s international football with 111 goals, having surpassed Iranian legend Ali Daei´s long-standing record of 109.
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Source: Euro Sports