Euro qualifiers begin with wins for England, Portugal

Sports Desk, Mar 23 (EFE).- England avenged their loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final Thursday with a 2-1 victory against the Azzurri in Naples, while Cristiano Ronaldo had a brace to lead Portugal 4-0 over Liechtenstein as the Euro 2024 qualifiers got under way.

The Three Lions’ first triumph over Italy on Italian soil since 1961 also saw captain Harry Kane convert a penalty to surpass Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading scorer with 54 goals.

In Lisbon, Roberto Martinez’s debut as Portugal coach coincided with CR7’s 197th appearance with the national side, a record for men’s international football.

The crowd at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples were in high spirits at the start of the match, but the visitors didn’t take long to quiet them.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma turned aside a blast from Jude Bellingham in the 12th minute only to see England go ahead in the 13th, when Declan Rice knocked in the rebound after a Kane shot was blocked.

The Tottenham Hotspur man’s 54th international goal came in the 44th minute from the spot after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was cited for a hand ball.

Jack Grealish squandered a chance to make it 3-0 right before the break.

Italy were much better in the second half and Mateo Retegui, in his first match for the Azzurri, halved the deficit with a goal in the 56th minute.

The defending European champions got a boost heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation as England defender Luke Shaw was sent off after picking up a second yellow card, but the English hung on for the win.

Though they dominated from the opening whistle against Liechtenstein, Portugal, who won the Euro title in 2016, showed signs of rust in the first half and led only 1-0 at the break on Joao Cancelo’s goal in the 8th minute.

Two minutes into the second half, Bernardo Silva doubled the lead with an assist from Bruno Fernandes.

Ronaldo made it 3-0 in the 51st minute, converting from the spot after Cancelo was fouled in the box, and the five-time Ballon d’Or completed the double in the 63rd.

In other games, Denmark beat Finland 3-1 with a hat trick from Atalanta striker Rasmus Hojlund, rumored to be a transfer target for Premier League leaders Arsenal. EFE apa-mc/dr

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