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When Manchester City loanee Gavin Bazunu saved Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half penalty to deny the Manchester United forward a record 110th international goal for Portugal, the headlines wrote themselves.
Ireland looked to be holding on for a famous World Cup qualifying victory in Portugal, but, as he so often does, the 36-year-old Ronaldo had the last word with two late goals to break Irish hearts – and the world record.
“I’m so happy, not only for the record but for the special moments with two goals at the end,” Ronaldo said.
“It was so tough, but we have to appreciate what the team did, they and the fans believed until the end of the game.”
It had been a frustrating night for Ronaldo and his compatriots as Ireland defended resolutely after taking the lead and largely restricted the hosts to pot-shots from distance.
In the 89th minute, Ronaldo lined up a free kick on the edge of the box but the 19-year-old Bazunu again repelled his effort.
Ronaldo, however, simply refused to be denied.
His movement was impeccable, darting this way and that to free himself from the attentions of the defence and get on the end of substitute Goncalo Guedes’s cross to power in a headed equaliser.
That took him past Iranian Ali Daei’s total of 109 international goals and he repeated the feat in the 96th minute with another header to move on to 111.
While Ronaldo’s night was almost perfect, there was one blot on his copybook.
He was booked for taking his shirt off while celebrating the winning goal, meaning he will miss Portugal’s trip to Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
That may be good news for Manchester United, however, as Ronaldo is expected to play the first match of his second spell at the Premier League club against Newcastle United next Saturday.
Southgate eyes World Cup glory to make up for Euro heartache
London, Sept 1, 2021 (AFP) - Gareth Southgate has challenged his England stars to make amends for their agonising Euro 2020 final defeat by winning the World Cup.
Southgate's side were denied in heartbreaking fashion as Italy beat England on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the final at Wembley in July.
Despite leading England to a first major final for 55 years, Three Lions boss Southgate was questioned for some of his tactics and substitutions in the final.
He knows the only way to silence the critics and erase the bitter memory of Italy lifting the trophy on English soil is to win the World Cup in Qatar next year.
England's road to Qatar resumes with a qualifier in Hungary on Thursday, just 53 days after that tumultuous final loss.
"We probably need to win a World Cup final," Southgate said. "Nothing else is really going to compare to the level of the game we were involved in and the unique circumstance that being involved in a final brings.
"We had two years of having to reflect on a World Cup semi-final and whatever we do in the next 18 months has got to be towards leading us towards challenging in a World Cup."
Manchester United's Harry Maguire echoed Southgate's sentiments when the England defender was asked if he would ever get over the pain of losing to Italy.
"It hurts and it always will hurt," he said. "Will you ever get over losing a penalty shoot-out to become European champions? Probably only if you win one of these major tournaments will you overcome that.
"Of course it hurts and it probably hurts every fan as well, not just us players and staff. It will hurt everyone."
Hungary will play their next two UEFA-organised home matches behind closed doors after being charged with racist and homophobic offences by the governing body, with a third game suspended, following abuse from the stands during Euro 2020.
The supporter ban does not cover Thursday's clash against England, though, with World Cup qualifiers played under FIFA jurisdiction.
The Puskas Arena is set to have more than 60,000 home fans in attendance as England's followers have not been able to make the journey.
However, Southgate believes clamping down on the racist abuse which followed the Euro 2020 final needs more urgent attention.
England trio Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were all targeted online following their shoot-out misses.
Asked if there should be a rule change to impose blanket stadium bans rather than competition-specific ones, Southgate told the BBC: "Well it is none of our business really.
"We've got our own problems, we just took part in a final where we had carnage, really.
"So I think we sort ourselves out first, we're prepared for what comes in Hungary but our players experienced difficult things, players' families experienced difficult things in the final.
"So, I never like it when we look outside when we've not got our own house in order. We've still got so much ground to make up ourselves."