Ronaldo scoreless in Nations League, Croatia avoids demotion

SPLIT, CROATIA (AP) — Croatia avoided relegation in Group 3 of UEFA’s Nations League despite a 3-2 loss to defending champion Portugal yesterday.

Croatia needed to better the result of Sweden, which lost 4-2 to group-winner France in the other match.

Portugal was already eliminated and had secured second place.

Croatia played with 10 men from early in the second half after one of its midfielders was sent off.

Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless for the second consecutive match to stay seven goals shy of the 109 scored by former Iran striker Ali Daei, the only other male football player to surpass the 100-goal milestone for a national team.

One of Ronaldo’s best chances to move closer to the all-time international record was a first-time header that missed wide.

Mateo Kovacic opened the scoring for the hosts in the 29th minute and netted an equaliser with a shot from outside the area in the 65th after Portugal had rallied with goals by Rubén Dias in the 52nd and João Félix in the 60th. Dias netted the winner in the 90th.

Croatia midfielder Marko Rog was sent off with a second yellow card for a foul on Ronaldo just before Portugal’s second goal.

Croatia’s Ivan Perisic heads the ball with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo during the UEFA Nations League A Group 3 football match at the Poljud stadium in Split. PHOTO: AFP