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Portugal draw with Spain; France shine; Croatia fight back

Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit a hat-trick when the two sides met in a thrilling 2018 World Cup group stage game

Portugal

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  9 Oct 2020 7:36 AM GMT

LOSBON: Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit a hat-trick when the two sides met in a thrilling 2018 World Cup group stage game, almost gave the European champions the lead when he sent a shot crashing against the underside of the bar early in the second half.

Midfielder Renato Sanches went even closer moments later with a first-time shot at goal.

He also hit the bottom of the bar before running away to celebrate, only to see the ball bounce on the goalline without crossing it.

Portugal's most glaring chance was still to come though, when Ruben Semedo headed a corner to the far post towards Joao Felix, who got the weakest of touches and somehow missed the target with the goal gaping in front of him.

Some 2,500 fans watched the game from inside Sporting's Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon, which was at 5% capacity, the first elite match in Portugal to allow spectators back in since the coronavirus pandemic began to disrupt world football in March.

Spain coach Luis Enrique fielded an experimental starting 11, leaving out captain Sergio Ramos and handing a first international start to 19-year-old central defender Eric Garcia while midfielders Dani Ceballos and Sergio Canales also made rare starts for the national team.

Germany's Neuhaus scores on debut in 3-3 draw with Turkey

Germany midfielder Florian Neuhaus scored on his national team debut but Turkey came back three times to earn a 3-3 draw in their friendly on Wednesday.

Kenan Karaman slotted in a stoppage-time equaliser after Luca Waldschmidt fired in an 81st-minute volley that had put Germany 3-2 ahead.

Turkey twice before had levelled, with both teams missing several regular players.

Germany also went ahead in their last two matches against Spain and Switzerland in September but both times had to settle for a draw.

Draxler's good finish from a Kai Havertz assist had put the hosts ahead on the stroke of halftime in front of 300 fans allowed in the stadium but the Turks equalised with Ozan Tufan's curled effort five minutes after the restart.

The 23-year-old Neuhaus completed a lightning quick one-two with Havertz to put Germany back ahead in the 58th.

But he then lost possession to Efecan Karaca who fired in from close range in the 67th for Turkey to draw level once more before the late goals from Waldschmidt and Karaman.

The Germans, playing without Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig players who were rested and missing several more through illness and injury, face Ukraine on Saturday and Switzerland three days later in the Nations League.

Turkey play Russia on Sunday and Serbia next Wednesday in their Nations League matches.

Giroud becomes France's second top scorer in Ukraine rout

Olivier Giroud became France's second top scorer when he netted a double to take his international tally to 42 goals as the world champions crushed an injury and COVID-19-ravaged Ukraine 7-1 in a friendly in a near-empty Stade de France on Wednesday.

Giroud, who celebrated winning his 100th cap, found the back of the net twice in the second half to move within nine goals of Thierry Henry's French scoring record.

The Chelsea striker leapfrogged Michel Platini, who scored 41 goals from 72 games between 1976-87.

The other goals came from the 17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga, who became the youngest France scorer since 1914, an own goal by Vitaliy Mykolenko, Corentin Tolisso, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, while Ukraine reduced the arrears through Viktor Tsygankov.

Camavinga put France ahead on nine minutes with a clever overhead kick after Giroud's header had been parried by Heorhiy Bushchan.

Bushchan was the only active keeper on the Ukraine team sheet, although assistant coach Oleksandr Shovkovsky, retired since 2016, was included in the squad to make up for the absence of their other two keepers who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Camavinga, who will turn 18 on Nov. 10, is the youngest scorer for France since Maurice Gastiger's goal at the age of 17 years, five months and five days against Switzerland in 1914.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Giroud, 34, doubled France's tally with a splendid 20-metre curled shot into the top corner in the 24th minute and he added the third nine minutes later with a header before Mykolenko headed a Houssem Aouar cross into his own net six minutes before the break.

Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko had to improvise with six injuries and eight COVID-19 cases in his expected squad, but the visitors managed to pull one back in the 52nd minute thanks to a long-range strike from Tsygankov.

Tolisso added a fifth for Les Bleus in the 65th with a curled shot and Mbappe scored the sixth at the end of a dazzling run eight minutes from fulltime.

Griezmann, who like Mbappe came on as a second-half substitute, fired home in the 89th to complete the rout.

France next face Portugal in a Nations League Group 3 clash on Sunday as Ukraine take on Germany in a Group 4 game.

Croatia fight back to beat Switzerland 2-1

Goals from midfielders Josip Brekalo and Mario Pasalic gave Croatia a 2-1 win at Switzerland after Mario Gavranovic had fired the home side ahead in a lively friendly attended by 5,000 fans on Wednesday.

The home crowd and a noisy visiting contingent created a cracking atmosphere as they filled 30 percent of the St. Gallen stadium, in line with UEFA's coronavirus regulations.

European soccer's governing body last Thursday gave the green light for a partial return of fans to stadiums where local authorities allow amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Spectators had been banned from all UEFA matches since March because of the pandemic, except at the Super Cup match played in Budapest on Sept. 24. which was used as a pilot for their return.

Gavranovic had a sitter saved by his Dinamo Zagreb team mate Dominik Livakovic early on before he beat the keeper with a superb 31st-minute header from a Granit Xhaka cross.

Bruno Petkovic missed a gilt-edged chance for the visitors before Brekalo equalised in the 42nd when he unleashed a sublime first-time shot inside the near post after good work by Croatia's debutant Domagoj Bradaric. Agencies

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