Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Cristiano Ronaldo makes it goal No 99 as defending champions Portugal qualify for Euro 2020

Prolific attacker scores again as team labours to 2-0 victory on a heavy pitch in Luxembourg

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as reigning champions Portugal secured their place at the Euro 2020 finals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg.

Bruno Fernandes struck the opening goal on 39 minutes, before Ronaldo tapped in a scrappy second late on to clinch second place in Group B behind winners Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Serbia.

Portugal became the 17th nation to qualify for next year's multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, joining the likes of world champions France, Spain, Italy and England.

Fernando Santos' side knew they would book their place at Euro 2020 with a win or by matching Serbia's result from their game in Belgrade.

But Portugal were made to work hard on a heavy pitch by a Luxembourg team ranked 96th in the world that notably held France to a 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Fernandes broke the deadlock before half-time, controlling Bernardo Silva's pinpoint pass expertly before lashing in from 20 yards.

Ronaldo, who smacked in a hat-trick in Thursday's 6-0 thrashing of Lithuania, moved to the brink of his international century four minutes from time.

Silva's far-post cross was forced towards goal by Diogo Jota, with Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goalline.

Iranian striker Ali Daei holds the world record with 109 international goals scored between 1993 and 2006.

"I would have been very proud to have scored my first goal for the national team, but the important thing is we won," said Jota. "It doesn't matter who scores – we are in the Euros and that is what we wanted."

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 goalbound 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.

"We can't give the match high marks for style," said Portugal manager Santos, who admitted the heavy pitch made life challenging for his team.

"I'm very happy for my players because the qualifying campaign has been more difficult than we expected.

"We're through to the finals of a major tournament for an 11th straight time. You've got to believe in these players.

"We won't be favourites but we are going there to win. We are not the prettiest team but we have won two European tournaments in the last four years."

Updated: November 18, 2019 08:26 AM

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