Luxembourg dare to dream before Portugal get their act together

Aleksandar Mitrovic the man yet again as double secures Serbia win in Azerbaijan

Gerson Rodrigues heads home the pening goal for  Luxembourg in the World Cup qualifier against Portugal. Photograph: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

Gerson Rodrigues heads home the pening goal for Luxembourg in the World Cup qualifier against Portugal. Photograph: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

 

Portugal had to come from behind on Tuesday night to beat Luxembourg 2-1 and join Serbia on seven points at the top of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying group.

Fresh from their win over Ireland on Saturday, the nation ranked 98th in the world continued to send shockwaves through European football by sweeping into the lead at home to the reigning champions.

Once again it was Gerson Rodrigues who caused the damage. When Portugal failed to clear a corner, Danel Sinani sent his cross back into the box for the unmarked Dynamo Kiev striker to steer his header past Anthony Lopes.

Reeling at that concession, Fernando Santos’s side tested Anthony Moris with shots from Bernardo Silva and Renato Sanches before regaining control with a goal either side of the break.

Substitute Pedro Neto, just on for the injured João Félix, jinked past his marker and stood up a cross for Liverpool’s Diogo Jota to head home the equaliser two minutes into stoppage-time.

Cristiano Ronaldo made it 2-1 on 51 minutes, swapping passes with João Cancelo to side-foot in his 103rd international goal.

Although Luxembourg substitute Sébastien Thill forced Lopes to tip over from a free-kick, Portugal remained dominant.

Jota was denied his fourth goal in two games by the crossbar but João Palhinha added their third 10 minutes from full-time with a downward header. The gallant hosts had Maxime Chanot dismissed for a second yellow card on 87 minutes.

Serbia’s forward Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup Group A qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku. Photograph: Tofik Babayev/AFP via Getty Images
Serbia’s forward Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup Group A qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku. Photograph: Tofik Babayev/AFP via Getty Images

Serbia maintained their solid start to the campaign by beating Azerbaijan 2-1 thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s brace.

Stephen Kenny has attributed much of his Ireland’s problems to a lack of action for players at club level but Mitrovic, who hasn’t started for Fulham since February 3rd, has rubbished that theory by bagging five goals in three internationals.

Retaining his starting berth from Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Portugal, the 25-year-old struck his first in Baku after just 16 minutes.

Dusan Tadic was at the hub of the action by slipping a through-ball for the onrushing Mitrovic to latch onto in his stride and curl a low shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner.

The group’s bottom seeds only mustered Ali Ghorbani’s 30th-minute shot which was saved by Predrag Rajkovic in the first half but were gifted a way back on the hour. Filip Kostic’s needless shove on Emin Mahmudov inside the box allowed the Azeri midfielder to send Rajkovic the wrong way for the equaliser.

Dragan Stojkovic introduced subs in search of a winner but his decision to keep Mitrovic on paid off as the country’s record goalscorer sunk the winner with nine minutes remaiming with an opportunistic volley from the edge of the penalty area.

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