Cristiano Ronaldo netted a double to become the European Championship’s all-time leading scorer as Portugal struck three times late on to beat a stubborn Hungary 3-0 in their Euro 2020 opener at a packed Puskas Arena on Tuesday.
The holders, who appear to have a much stronger squad than when they won their first major title five years ago, laboured for long periods in Budapest.
But Raphael Guerreiro made the vital breakthrough in the 84th minute and Ronaldo slammed in a penalty shortly afterwards before tapping home in injury time.
The Juventus striker has now scored 11 goals in the tournament, two more than French great Michel Platini, who netted nine times when he led France to glory in 1984.
The 36-year-old is also just three goals away from matching Iranian Ali Daei’s all-time international scoring record of 109.
Ronaldo chose by far the biggest crowd of the tournament to break the record in front of, with Budapest the only Euro 2020 venue not to limit fan capacity due to Covid-19.
The Puskas Arena has a capacity of almost 68,000 fans.
World Cup winners France and three-time European champions Germany meet in the other Group F game later in the day at Munich’s Allianz Arena.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos opted to play Liverpool forward Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva alongside Ronaldo ahead of Joao Felix.
It almost paid instant dividends, as Jota forced Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi into a smart save with a left-footed drive in the fourth minute, although he perhaps should have squared the ball for an unmarked Ronaldo.
Five minutes later, Jota, who was out injured for most of the latter stages of the club season, volleyed Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick over the crossbar.
Ronaldo created an opportunity for Bernardo Silva in the 28th minute by winning the ball back high up the pitch, only for the Manchester City winger to delay his shot too long and see the opening snuffed out by an excellent tackle from Hungary centre-back Willi Orban.
Hungary offered very little from open play, although they sent Portugal a warning shortly before half-time when Adam Szalai headed a free-kick too close to Rui Patricio.
Jota continued to be Portugal’s most dangerous player, but his shot on the turn was beaten away by Gulacsi.
Ronaldo misses glorious chance
The best chance of the opening period fell to Ronaldo in the 44th minute, only for the Portugal captain to plant the ball over from six yards out after meeting Guerreiro’s low cross.
Portugal came out of the blocks quickly after the break, knowing failure to win would put them in trouble in such a difficult group, with Pepe seeing a downward header well saved by the stretching Gulacsi.
Santos’ men continued to press despite Hungary growing in confidence, with Fernandes drawing Gulacsi into another fine stop with a dipping strike from long range.
Despite having Felix, in-form Eintracht Frankfurt striker Andre Silva and Pedro Goncalves, last season’s top-scorer in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, on the bench, Santos waited until the 71st minute to make a change, sending on Rafa Silva for Bernardo Silva.
Portugal’s increasing frustration in the closing quarter of an hour was shown when Ronaldo begged for a penalty for handball against Attila Fiola.
Hungary thought they had snatched a shock lead through substitute Szabolcs Schon, but he was denied by a late linesman’s flag for offside.
Rafa Silva played a key role in the opening goal, though, as his deflected cross was met by Guerreiro, whose shot also took a huge deflection and dribbled agonisingly into the corner of the Hungarian net.
The home side’s resistance was totally over three minutes later, as Orban pulled back Rafa Silva when he was clean through on goal.
Ronaldo stepped up and made no mistake, sending Gulacsi the wrong way to add another record to his collection on the day he became the first player in history to play at five European Championships.
There was more to come from Ronaldo, as he danced through after a one-two with Rafa Silva and rolled in his 106th goal for Portugal.
Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier
The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.
The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.
A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.
Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.
The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.
In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.
Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.
The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.
Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.
In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.
Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.
Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.
WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars
The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.
The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.
There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.
Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.
The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.
The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.
Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.
Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.
Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.
Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.
A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.
Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true
Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.
There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.
The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.
Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.
“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.
There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.
Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021
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