Euro 2024 Qualifying roundup: Ronaldo nets brace as Portugal and Italy victorious

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Euro 2024 Qualifying roundup: Ronaldo nets brace as Portugal and Italy victorious

Cristiano Ronaldo is congratulated by Bernardo Silva after netting against Luxembourg
Cristiano Ronaldo is congratulated by Bernardo Silva after netting against LuxembourgAFP
Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 121st and 122nd international goals as Portugal cruised past Luxembourg to round off the weekend's Euro 2024 qualifying. Elsewhere, Italy bounced back from the defeat to England to beat Malta whilst both Finland and Slovakia also earned all three points.

Luxembourg 0 Portugal 6

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second brace in two UEFA European Championship qualification matches as Portugal cruised to a 6-0 Group J victory against Luxembourg.

Aiming to build momentum after a commendable 0-0 draw in Slovakia last time out, Luxembourg started positively at home against Portugal and Gerson Rodrigues struck the first attempt of the evening with a 20-yard effort that flew past the post.

Portugal already showed their new-found attacking quality under new boss Roberto Martinez with a 4-0 opening match victory over Liechtenstein on Friday, and Selecao soon found their scoring form again when Cristiano Ronaldo tapped in Nuno Mendes’ knockdown in the area.

The floodgates soon opened and Luxembourg found themselves 4-0 down after 30 minutes as Joao Felix headered in from Bernardo Silva’s cross.

Silva then turned goalscorer by finishing Joao Palhinha’s pinpoint 30-yard pass with a looping header before Ronaldo sealed his fifth goal in two matches against Luxembourg when the Selecao skipper curled past Anthony Moris from close range.

Although Luxembourg’s hopes of ending their eight-match winless run in Euro qualifiers were shattered, the hosts wanted to compete with dignity in the second half and Vincent Thill gave the hosts a bright spark when he took on three players and fired at Rui Patricio.

As the Red Lions pushed for a consolation, Portugal ruthlessly cut through the hosts with precision for a fifth when Rafael Leao crossed to Otavio, who rose to head past a rooted Moris.

Leao continued to torment Luxembourg as he missed a late penalty before eventually getting on the scoresheet with a solo run and powerful finish into the bottom corner.

Inevitably, the 83-place gap between Portugal and Luxembourg in the FIFA world rankings was highlighted by the scoreline and Martinez will be pleased that Selecao have lived up to their favourite status in Group J so far.

While Luxembourg are rank outsiders to progress from the group, they showed glimpses of quality during the contest to show they can compete in two vital qualification clashes against Liechtenstein and Bosnia and Herzegovina in June.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

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Malta 0 Italy 2

Defending European champions Italy secured their first win of Euro 2024 qualifying with a 2-0 success over Malta in Ta' Qali, bouncing back from disappointment against England with a result that extends their unbeaten all-time record against the Falcons to nine matches.

It took Malta until the 80th minute to register their first shot on target in their 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia on Thursday night, but it was a different story this time around.

After only five minutes, Alexander Satariano was played in by an excellent ball over the top, and the striker forced a sharp reaction save from Gianluigi Donnarumma from point-blank range.

After this early wake-up call, Italy began to work their way into the contest, and Alessio Romagnoli’s effort from range on the quarter-hour mark was tipped over the crossbar for a corner.

From the resulting set-piece, Mateo Retegui rose highest to head home and give the Azzurri the lead.

Yet, despite being behind, and ranked 159 places below Italy by FIFA, Malta were still causing an unexpected number of problems.

Italy knew they needed a second goal to give themselves some breathing space, and the reigning European champions did just that with the half-hour mark approaching, when a ball was fizzed across goal and apparently diverted into the net by Matteo Pessina.

He celebrated with all due gusto, though a dubious goals panel may eventually attribute Italy’s killer blow to a Matthew Guillaumie own-goal.

Italy wouldn’t make any further additions before the interval, and with the Azzurri all but over the line, the second half saw very few chances for either side, as Malta searched for a way back into the contest.

Attempting to make up for his earlier mistake, Guillaumier came close to halving the deficit with just over 20 minutes remaining when he headed just over the crossbar from close range.

Shortly after that near-miss, substitute Gianluca Scamacca came close to putting the seal on the win, when his overhead kick from a corner was pushed away by a one-handed save from Henry Bonello.

Regardless, the Azzurri were able to safely negotiate the closing stages to record a victory which lifts them to second, while Malta are rooted to the foot of Group C.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Emerson Palmieri (Italy)

Find out the stats from the game now.

Northern Ireland 0 Finland 1

Finland beat Northern Ireland 1-0 to earn their first points this UEFA European Championship Qualifying campaign, ending a run of three consecutive away defeats to their opponent.

There was plenty of patient play in the opening encounters, with Northern Ireland coming closest to an early goalscoring opportunity.

The incoming Jordan Thompson’s pass trickled invitingly across the face of goal before Nikolai Alho beat Conor Washington to the ball and cleared.

The hosts had a scare when Craig Cathcart let Ciaron Brown’s pass go under his boot, but the captain recovered with a well-timed tackle on Teemu Pukki that started a move culminating in Conor Bradley setting up Dion Charles for an opportunity that was struck over.

The Green and White Army had grown in confidence as the half progressed, but still found themselves behind shortly before the half-hour mark.

Robin Lod’s cross found Benjamin Källman via a mishit Pukki shot, and the Cracovia striker clinically finished for the fourth goal in his last five international appearances.

Kallman hadn’t played in any of Finland’s last three matches but was causing problems at Windsor Park, setting up a chance for Pukki who saw an effort blocked by Daniel Ballard and his follow-up saved.

Lukas Hradecky made an equally important intervention at the other end after Bradley released D. Charles again.

Both teams lost a defender due to injury early in the second half, and after Josh Magennis was brought on for Ballard, the frontman failed to keep his effort down when Bradley intelligently knocked the ball down to him.

Northern Ireland persistently pushed forward and thought they had their reward when D. Charles latched onto Hradecky’s unconvincing punch and finished, but the celebrations were cut short due to a handball from the Bolton Wanderers striker.

While Robert Ivanov wasted a big opportunity, he was part of Markku Kanerva’s strong backline that defended resolutely to end Finland’s five-game winless run as they joined Northern Ireland, Denmark and Kazakhstan on three points behind Slovenia in Group H.

Michael O’Neill will be disappointed that his side isn’t ahead of the chasing pack, with this being just the second loss in the Green and White Army’s last eight competitive home matches.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Leo Vaisanen (Finland)

Check out all the stats from the match with Flashscore.

Slovakia 2 Bosnia & Herzegovina 0

Francesco Calzona registered his first victory since his appointment as Slovakia's national team manager in July 2022, convincingly defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 at Stadión Tehelne pole in Bratislava.

On the back of a disappointing goalless draw with Luxembourg - who sit 42 places below the Falcons in the FIFA World Rankings - the hosts began more assertively in the Slovakian capital and were rewarded for their attacking endeavours with the game’s opening goal in the 13th minute.

Recalled to the Falcons’ starting XI at the expense of Tomas Suslov, Robert Mak made a strong bid for more minutes, unleashing a fearsome strike that flew past Ibrahim Sehic into the bottom corner.

The Bosnian display was the polar opposite of that seen in their domineering 3-0 victory over Iceland, as the Dragons failed to get going in the final third.

With half-time fast approaching, Slovakia extended their advantage further as Lukas Haraslín fired beyond the grasp of Bosnia and Herzegovina captain Sehic from the fringes of the area.

After a less-than-impressive performance in front of goal in the first half, the visitors finally mustered their first shot of the evening on Martin Dubravka’s goal three minutes into the second period, as Smail Prevljak forced the Newcastle United goalkeeper into a routine save.

With the prospect of salvaging at least a share of the spoils slipping out of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s hands, Ermedin Demirovic then missed a gilt-edged opportunity to halve the deficit as the towering Augsburg striker planted his header disappointedly wide of the mark.

Victory represents Slovakia's first head-to-head success in over nine years, as the Falcons will now have to wait as late as mid-June until they make the 3,500+ mile round-trip to face Iceland.

Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered an early blow in their aspirations of making a first-ever appearance at a UEFA European Championships after a disappointing evening in Bratislava.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Robert Mak (Slovakia)

Find out all the stats now.

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