Ronaldo rues absence of VAR as Portugal winner in Serbia is ruled out


Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic became his country’s all-time top scorer on 39 goals from 63 international appearances after he netted in a 2-2 home draw with Portugal in a thrilling 2022 World Cup Group A qualifier but that was overshadowed when Cristiano Ronaldo saw a late goal controversially ruled out.

The Serbians fought back from two goals down to earn a share of the spoils as Fulham striker Mitrovic pulled one back in the 46th minute and Filip Kostic levelled after a Diogo Jota double had given Portugal a 2-0 lead in the first half.

Liverpool forward Jota fired the European champions ahead with an 11th-minute header from a superb Bernardo Silva assist and added another in the 36th as he glanced in a Cedric Soares cross from the right.

The match had a controversial climax as Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a clear stoppage-time winner for Portugal when Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic cleared the ball after it had crossed the line as shown by television replays.

But with no VARin place, Dutch referee Danny Makelie waved play on and Ronaldo saw his follow-up shot cleared off the line before he was booked for dissent.

Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong scored either side of half-time as the Netherlands got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 2-0 home win over Latvia on Saturday.

The Dutch were looking for a strong response after a shock 4-2 loss to Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday at the start of their Group G campaign.

Yet despite a ferocious onslaught from kick-off – the Dutch had 11 attempts on target in the first 25 minutes – they took until beyond the half hour to score when Berghuis, who had waited until his 23rd cap for his first international goal, lashed home from the edge of the area.

Latvia defended heroically for most of the match, except at a 69th-minute corner when De Jong headed in the second.

The match was played in front of 5,000 spectators in the Amsterdam Arena as part of a government-supported study into the amount of contact among crowds.

Ozan Tufan scored two superb goals as Turkey cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Norway, who had substitute Kristian Thorstvedt sent off late on in the other Group G clash.

Playing their home game in Malaga due to coronavirus restrictions in Oslo, the Norwegians protested about the Qatar World Cup for the second time in four days by wearing t-shirts that called for human rights to be respected. The players also held up their left hands, mirroring the international logo for human rights.

They quickly fell behind as Yusuf Yazici sliced their defence open down the left and put in a low cross for the late-arriving Tufan to rifle home in the fourth minute.

Alexander Sørloth could have put his side level in the 26th minute, but his powerful shot cannoned back off the post and it proved to be a costly miss when Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu was left unmarked to head home Yazici’s corner two minutes later.

Romelu Lukaku’s second-half strike helped Belgium salvage a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republicin an entertaining Group E qualifier

Lukas Provod gave the home side the lead with his first international goal just after the break when he gathered the ball in space and sent a long-range, right-foot strike past Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.

But Lukaku levelled in the 60th minute when he turned defender Ondrej Celustka and sent a shot that deflected off the keeper’s right leg into the net.

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A first-half header by Mario Pasalic gave Croatia a laboured 1-0 home win over Cyprus in Group H with captain Luka Modric celebrating a record 135th international cap.

Modric broke the record set by defender Darijo Srna and produced an industrious performance at Rujevica Stadium as Croatia were made to work hard for their victory.