London, March 28
Portugal and Belgium were left frustrated by draws in their World Cup qualifying matches, while Ireland were left in shock.
Cristiano Ronaldo stormed off after he failed to score as Portugal were held 2-2 by Serbia while top-ranked Belgium could only salvage a 1-1 draw in the Czech Republic.
On a night when underdogs tested big names, Luxembourg pulled off the biggest shock of all to beat Ireland 1-0, while Netherlands beat Latvia 2-0.
Dutch players wore T-shirts bearing the message “Football supports change” — protesting against next year’s hosts Qatar human rights record — before they bet Latvia 2-0.
- Russia bt Slovenia 2-1
- Croatia bt Cyprus 1-0
- Belarus bt Estonia 2
- Turkey bt Norway 3-0
- Holland beat Latvia 2-1
- Serbia-Portugal drew 2-2
- Luxembourg bt Ireland 1-0
- Czech-Belgium drew 1-1
Fans remain a rare sight in European soccer amid the coronavirus pandemic, but some countries are changing that. Russia had 13,000 supporters for their 2-1 win over Slovenia, the biggest crowd at this week’s qualifying games. The Netherlands had 5,000 fans as part of a trial scheme to test how more public events can reopen safely.
Ronaldo tossed his captain’s armband on the field as he walked off at the end of Portugal’s draw with Serbia, believing he should have had a winning goal. His shot was heading over the line when Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic slid and cleared the ball. TV replays indicated the ball did cross the line, but goal-line technology and video review aren’t used in the World Cup qualifiers. Diogo Jota put the reigning European champions ahead with a pair of first-half headers. But halftime substitute Nemanja Radonjic set up two goals to pull the hosts level with half an hour to play. Serbia defender Nikola Milenkovic saw a direct red card in stoppage time for a dangerous studs-first tackle on Danilo.
Lukaku saves Belgium
Romelu Lukaku extended his impressive scoring record with Belgium to salvage a 1-1 draw against Czech Republic as the top-ranked team was lucky to escape with a point. Facing an inspired Czech side which hit the woodwork twice, Belgium struggled defensively and conceded early in the second half. Lukaku, Belgium’s all-time leading scorer, then took his tally to 59 goals in 91 international matches after Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant assist.
Both teams had depleted squads after German clubs refused to release players including Belgium’s Thorgan Hazard because they could have been forced into quarantine after returning from the Czech Republic. In the other Group E match, Belarus twice came from behind to kick off its World Cup qualification campaign with a 4-2 win over 10-man Estonia.
The Netherlands got their qualification back on track by beating Latvia 2-0, while Turkey beat Norway 3-0.
Steven Berghuis curled in a shot in the 32nd minute and Luuk de Jong headed home a corner in the 69th as the Netherlands rebounded from a 4-2 midweek defeat in Turkey. — AP/PTI