Ronaldo scoreless as Portugal beats Azerbaijan in World Cup Qualifiers

Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless as Portugal needed an own-goal to defeat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Group A of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (second left) in action during the Group A qualifying contest in Turin, Italy.   -  AP

Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless as Portugal needed an own-goal to defeat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Group A of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

The 36th-minute winner came after Azerbaijan goalkeeper Shahruddin Mahammadaliyev tried to punch the ball out of the area and it ricocheted into the net off captain Maksim Medvedev.

Ronaldo’s fruitless evening left him seven goals away from becoming the all-time top scorer for a national team. The record of 109 goals is held by former Iran striker Ali Daei, the only other male football player to surpass the 100-goal milestone for a national team.

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Ronaldo came close to scoring a couple of times from free kicks. He will get other chances to move closer to the record when Portugal visits Serbia on Saturday and Luxembourg on Tuesday.

The match was held in Turin, Italy, where Ronaldo plays with Juventus, because of the coronavirus situation in Portugal.

Azerbaijan won only one of its last nine World Cup qualifiers — against San Marino in 2017. It lost seven times in that streak.

Serbia beats Ireland

In the other Group A match, Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to score a pair of second-half goals as Serbia came from behind to defeat Ireland 3-2 in Belgrade. Alan Browne scored Ireland’s first goal in the 18th and James Collins added the second in the 86th. Dusan Vlahovic put Serbia on the board in the 40th.

The result kept Ireland coach Stephen Kenny winless in his first nine matches in charge of a team trying to make it to the World Cup for the first time since 2002.