Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ronaldo breaks Northern Irish hearts with clinical treble

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) is challenged by Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (left) and Niall McGinn (right) during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Windsor Park.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) is challenged by Northern Ireland's Steven Davis (left) and Niall McGinn (right) during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Windsor Park.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit a second-half hat-trick to spare Portugal's blushes against Northern Ireland on an ill-tempered night that saw three red cards at Windsor Park as the visitors won 4-2.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit a second-half hat-trick to spare Portugal's blushes against Northern Ireland on an ill-tempered night that saw three red cards at Windsor Park as the visitors won 4-2.

The hosts looked to be on course for a stunning upset when Jamie Ward's put them 2-1 in front and a man to the good after Helder Postiga's dismissal. But left-back Chris Brunt saw red on the hour and Ronaldo took control with a pair of powerful headers and a late free-kick, before Kyle Lafferty's dismissal completed Northern Ireland's misery.

Defenders Bruno Alves and Gareth McAuley had earlier traded first-half efforts to send the sides in 1-1 at half-time.

Scotland were defeated by Belgium as they slumped to a 2-0 loss at Hampden. A goal in each half from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas secured victory for Belgium and ensured they took another massive step towards Brazil by remaining at the top of Group A.

Chris Coleman lost his passport and then watched his Wales side lose their qualifier 2-1 in Macedonia. He may have wished he had not bothered getting replacement travel documents as Ivan Trickovski fired the home side in front in the 21st minute.

The excellent Aaron Ramsey equalised from the penalty spot for Wales, but Aleksandar Trajkovski struck the winner 10 minutes from time on a night when the Wales U-21s also lost to San Marino.

Elsewhere, Robin van Persie's stoppage-time penalty spared the Netherlands from suffering an embarrassing defeat as they drew 2-2 in Estonia to keep up their unbeaten run in the qualifiers in Tallinn.

Konstantin Vassiljev scored twice in a gutsy performance. Holders Spain eased to the brink of qualification for next year's finals when Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo struck either side of half-time in a 2-0 win away to Finland in Group I.

Irish Independent

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