Ronaldo rampage gives Red Lions reality check

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second brace in two UEFA European Championship qualification matches as Portugal cruised to a 6-0 Group J victory against Luxembourg.

Aiming to build momentum after a commendable 0-0 draw in Slovakia last time out, Luxembourg started positively at home against Portugal and Gerson Rodrigues struck the first attempt of the evening with a 20-yard effort that flew past the post. Portugal already showed their new-found attacking quality under new boss Roberto Martínez with a 4-0 opening match victory over Liechtenstein on Friday, and Seleção soon found their scoring form again when Cristiano Ronaldo tapped in Nuno Mendes’ knockdown in the area.

The floodgates soon opened and Luxembourg found themselves 4-0 down after 30 minutes as João Félix headered in from Bernardo Silva’s cross. Silva then turned goalscorer by finishing João Palhinha’s pinpoint 30-yard pass with a looping header before Ronaldo sealed his fifth goal in two matches against Luxembourg when the Seleção skipper curled past Anthony Moris from close range.

Although Luxembourg’s hopes of ending their eight-match winless run in Euro qualifiers were shattered, the hosts wanted to compete with dignity in the second half and Vincent Thill gave the hosts a bright spark when he took on three players and fired at Rui Patrício. As the Red Lions pushed for a consolation, Portugal ruthlessly cut through the hosts with precision for a fifth when Rafael Leão crossed to Otávio, who rose to head past a rooted Moris. Leão continued to torment Luxembourg as he missed a late penalty before eventually getting on the scoresheet with a solo run and powerful finish into the bottom corner.

Inevitably, the 83-place gap between Portugal and Luxembourg in the FIFA world rankings was highlighted by the scoreline and Martinez will be pleased that Seleção have lived up to their favourite status in Group J so far. While Luxembourg are rank outsiders to progress from the group, they showed glimpses of quality during the contest to show they can compete in two vital qualification clashes against Liechtenstein and Bosnia and Herzegovina in June.

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