Portugal keeps winning in Nations League without Ronaldo
MADRID (AP) — No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem.
European champion Portugal sparkled on Thursday despite the absence of its star forward, defeating Poland to move a step closer to the last four of the UEFA Nations League.
In two friendly games, Kylian Mbappe scored late to salvage a 2-2 draw for the world champions at home to Iceland, while two-goal Paco Alcacer helped Spain rout Wales 4-1 in Cardiff as the team claimed a third win in a row under new coach Luis Enrique.
With young Sevilla striker Andre Silva scoring again, Portugal won 3-2 in Chorzow to take control of Group 3 of the top-tier League A in Europe’s newest competition.
Portugal now has six points from two games, five points ahead of Poland and Italy. Only the group winner advances to June’s last four.
A draw between Poland and Italy in Chorzow on Sunday will guarantee Portugal as the group winner. Portugal plays a friendly in Scotland the same day.
“Overall we dominated,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “Poland started well and scored, but we were able to take control and were deserved winners.”
It was Portugal’s third straight game without Ronaldo, who hasn’t played an international since his transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer.
Ronaldo has also been the recent subject of rape allegations. The 33-year-old forward denies any wrongdoing.
Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek, Serie A’s leading scorer, gave Poland an 18th-minute lead with his first international goal.
The visitors equalized with a close-range effort from Silva after a pass from Pizzi Fernandes in the 32nd. It was his seventh goal in Portugal’s last six competitive away games.
Portugal made it 2-1 just before halftime with an own goal from defender Kamil Glik.
“The two goals we conceded in the first half damaged our confidence and heavily influenced the game,” Poland coach Jerzy Brzeczek said.
Bernardo Silva added the third goal with a long-range shot in the 52nd minute before Jakub Blaszczykowski marked his record 103rd cap for Poland by pulling one back with a low volley in the 77th.
Blaszczykowski has now eclipsed Michal Zewlakow on the all-time list of Poland appearances.
Robert Lewandowski made his 100th appearance but was unable to add to his tally of 55 Poland goals.
“It’s not the result we were looking for,” Poland defender Jan Bednarek said. “We wanted to make our fans proud. We had good moments in the game but bad ones too.”
RUSSIA STAYS TOP
In the only game of the night in the second-tier League B, Russia drew 0-0 with Sweden in Kaliningrad.
Russia, unbeaten against the Swedes since 1994, stayed ahead in Group 2 with four points, one more than Turkey and three ahead of Sweden. All the teams have played two matches.
Russia hosts Turkey on Sunday in Sochi.
Israel’s 2-1 home win against Scotland left all three teams in Group 1 of the third-tier League C tied on three points after two matches.
Scotland is ahead on goal difference, followed by Israel and Albania.
Israel hosts Albania on Sunday.
In Group 4, Serbia stayed ahead with a 2-0 win in Montenegro, while Romania remained second with a 2-1 victory in Lithuania.
In Group 3 of League D, Kosovo is top after a 3-1 home win against Malta, while Azerbaijan jumped to second with a 3-0 victory in the Faroe Islands.
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