Defending champions Portugal booked their UEFA Euro 2020 ticket with a 2-0 win over Luxembourg on Sunday. Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo got the goals.
Fernandes opened the scoring with a well-taken strike shorty before half-time, but Luxembourg improved after the break. Portugal were under real pressure until Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball to double the lead late.
Portugal started the day one point ahead of Serbia in Group B, knowing they only had to match the Serbs’ result against Ukraine to secure one of the two qualification spots.
Portugal started on the front foot, but within 10 minutes of the opening whistle, received some bad news from the other Group B match
The first half-chance fell to the hosts, with David Turpel sending a header over the bar, while Vincent Thill proved a handful for the European champions, and his looping shot nearly caught out Rui Patricio.
Gerson Rodrigues perhaps should have done better with his header after 25 minutes, missing the target, and Ronaldo didn’t have enough bend on a long-range effort to trouble the goalkeeper.
Pizzi whiffed on a shot after some great build-up play, and Portugal’s pressure mounted as the first half went on. It led to a late goal for Fernandes, who took a great through ball from Bernardo Silva and put it past goalkeeper Anthony Moris.
Over in Belgrade, Roman Yaremchuk had tied things up for Ukraine, so Portugal appeared to be cruising to a second-placed finish and Euro 2020 ticket entering half-time.
Jose Fonte could have all but secured the win early in the second half, sending a header wide, and the away fans fell quiet when news of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal for Serbia filtered through. Luxembourg were proving surprisingly strong opponents, and a single goal would have been enough to put Portugal in serious trouble.
The hosts started working their way into dangerous areas, and Portugal had little response. Joao Moutinho was brought on to stabilise the midfield battle, but Thill continued his strong play and claimed a penalty after 68 minutes.
Fernandes wanted a spot-kick in a similar situation, but the referee opted to place the ball outside the box. Ronaldo curled the resulting free-kick agonisingly close to the target.
The much-needed second goal finally came after 86 minutes, when Ronaldo fired home a rebound to secure all three points and a Euro 2020 spot. It was his 99th international goal.
Ukraine equalised again in Belgrade, meaning Portugal could start their celebrations early. The final minutes played out without major incidents, although Ronaldo tried desperately to score his 100th goal for Portugal, firing a late chance wide.