FARO, PORTUGAL (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 10th international hat trick as Portugal cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in World Cup qualifying early yesterday to stay close to group leader Serbia.
Serbia kept a one-point cushion at the top of Group A by defeating last-place Azerbaijan 3-1 at home. It has 17 points, one more than Portugal, which has a game in hand.
Serbia’s last game is at Portugal in November. Portugal, which has won four in a row in qualifying, will play at Ireland before the decisive match against the Serbians.
It was the 58th career hat-trick for club and country for Ronaldo, who took his record scoring tally to 115 international goals by converting two early penalty kicks and finding the net again near the end. Bruno Fernandes and João Palhinha also scored for Portugal.
“We had three final lefts and we succeeded in this one,” said Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patrício, who made his 100th appearance with the national team. “Two to go now.”
Bernardo Silva was fouled to prompt the first penalty in the eighth minute, while Ronaldo himself was brought down inside the area before converting the second penalty in the 13th. He had to retake it, though, after André Silva entered the area too early.
Ronaldo also struck the post a few minutes later, and in the 18th Fernandes added to the lead after being set up by Bernardo Silva.
Palhinha scored the fourth in the 69th, moments after Ronaldo came close with a bicycle kick that was saved by Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris.
Ronaldo completed his hat-trick in the 87th to reach 25 goals in his last 16 World Cup qualifying matches.
SERBIA STAY TOP
Serbia defeated Azerbaijan with a pair of goals by Dusan Vlahovic and another by substitute Dusan Tadic.
Vlahovic opened the scoring by converting a 30th-minute penalty and added his second in the 53rd.
Emin Makhmudov scored for winless Azerbaijan in first-half injury time after a blunder by Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic while trying to clear the ball from the area, and Tadic sealed the victory for the hosts with another penalty in the 83rd.
Azerbaijan has only one point from seven matches.