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Ronaldo brace lifts him to 101 goals; France beat Croatia again

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace on Tuesday as he became only the second man in the world to reach 100 national team goals, in a 2-0 Nations League victory of title holders Portugal at 10-man Sweden.

Berlin, 9 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace on Tuesday as he became only the second man in the world to reach 100 national team goals, in a 2-0 Nations League victory of title holders Portugal at 10-man Sweden.

Ronaldo clinched the century with a first-half stoppage time free-kick and added a brilliant second in the 72nd minute of his 165th cap for a tally of 101 – just eight goals shy of the record 109 goals from Iran’s Ali Daei.

Portugal top Group A3 on a maximum six points from two matches alongside France who beat Croatia with the same 4-2 scoreline as in the 2018 World Cup final.

In Group A2, England were held 0-0 in Denmark while leaders Belgium overcame an early deficit to rout Iceland 5-1, with Michy Batshuayi getting a brace.

Portugal had started their title defence with an impressive 4-1 over Croatia in the absence of Ronaldo but the superstar was back for the game in Solna and made his presence felt.

Sweden had Gustav Svensson sent off for a second bookable offence when he brought down Joao Moutinho in the 44th, and Ronaldo superbly converted the ensuing free-kick from 25m into the top left corner.

“Yesterday he scored six or seven like that in training and today it went exactly the same way. It’s so good to have Cristiano on the team!” midfielder Bruno Fernandes said afterwards.

And with 18 minutes the Juventus forward was on target again with an impressive shot from just outside the area into the far right corner, set up nicely by teenager Joao Felix.

At the Stade de France, Croatia dominated early against the world champions who were without star forward Kylian Mbappe who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren put them ahead in the 16th after the hosts failed to clear a corner-kick.

But France turned the match around before half-time, with Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann completing a classy attacking move in the 43rd, and Anthony Martial’s shot against the left post in stoppage time bouncing over the line off the body of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

Croatia levelled at 2-2 from substitute Josip Brekalo in the 55th but Dayot Upamecano’s header in the 65th and a 77th-minute penalty from Olivier Giroud won it fr France who remain unbeaten against Croatia in now seven meetings.

“They scored the first goal but after that we reacted well and scored two just before half-time. In the second half we came out with fresh motivation,” midfielder Moussa Sissoko said.

In Copenhagen, home striker Kasper Dolberg had the only shot on target for Denmark when his drive was pushed away by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford towards the end of the first half.

England were limited to six shots for the match with captain Harry Kane coming close to snatching a winner in added time but his low shot was cleared off the line by Mathias Jorgensen.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Conor Coady and Kalvin Philipps from promoted Leeds United won their maiden cap along with substitute Jack Grealish while youngsters Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood, who had made their debut in Saturday’s 1-0 in Iceland, were sent home by manager Gareth Sothgate after breach of coronavirus guidelines.

“We’re disappointed not to go away with the win but from a personal point of view I’m immensely proud,” Coady told Sky Sports.

The draw means England sit second in Group A2 with four points behind Belgium, who lead with after two wins and next visit England.

Iceland took an early lead from Holmbert Fridjonsson in Brussels but Axel Witsel tapped the equalizer and Batshuayi made it 2-1 in the 17th. Dries Mertens, Batshuayi with his second and Jeremy Doku completed a big win after the break.

Elsewhere, Azerbaijan won 1-0 in Cyprus, Luxembourg and Montenegro drew 0-0 in Group C1; in Group C2 Armenia beat Estonia 2-0 amd Georgia drew 1-1 with North Macedonia; and in Group D2 visiting Liechtenstein prevailed 2-0 at San Marino.

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