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    No Ronaldo, no problem as Portugal comfortably beats Azerbaijan

    Sep 8, 2021
    PHOTO: AP

    BAKU, Azerbaijan — Portugal overcame the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to comfortably defeat Azerbaijan, 3-0, and take the lead in its World Cup qualifying group on Tuesday.

    Bernardo Silva, André Silva and Diogo Jota scored a goal each to give Portugal a two-point lead over Serbia, which conceded late in a 1-1 draw at Ireland in the other Group A match. The away victory gave Portugal 13 points from five matches.

    Sergej Milinkovic-Savic gave Serbia the lead in Dublin with a 20th-minute header off a corner kick but the hosts equalized with an 87th-minute own-goal by defender Nikola Milenkovic.

    Ronaldo was serving a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. He was released from the squad after netting his 110th and 111th goals in Portugal's 2-1 win over Ireland last week, becoming the men's all-time top scorer in international soccer. He had been tied with former Iranian striker Ali Daei at 109 goals.

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    "We could have scored more goals, we created several chances," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "If we had been more efficient in front of the goal, the score would have been even better."

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      Bernardo Silva opened the scoring from inside the area in the 26th minute by flicking the ball into the top corner with the outside of his left foot. André Silva, playing in Ronaldo's position up front, added to the lead from close range five minutes later, and Jota sealed the victory with a header in the 75th.

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      In the final minutes of the match, some fans entered the field and took photos with Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

      Winless Azerbaijan stayed in last place in the group with one point from five matches. It hosts Ireland in the next round in October.

      Serbia will next visit Luxembourg, which is also Portugal's next opponent. Luxembourg is third in the group with six points from four matches.

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      PHOTO: AP
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