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.
It looked like being a frustrating night for the new Manchester United signing as he saw an early penalty saved and his team then fell behind to a goal from John Egan.
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.
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.
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