Three-goal Ronaldo surpasses Pele

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo struck his fifth international hat-trick to lead the European champions to a 5-1 win over the Faroe Islands in their World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 32-year-old, Portugal's record scorer, took his haul in this qualifying campaign to 14 goals in seven games and his overall tally to 78 in 144 international appearances.

In the process, he also surpassed Pele's record of 77 goals in 91 appearances for Brazil. Ronaldo is second on Europe's all-time international scorers list, six goals behind Hungary's Ferenc Puskas.

The win left the Portuguese in second place with 18 points from seven games in Group B.

Leaders Switzerland are three points clear after beating Andorra 3-0 in a game interrupted by rain.

Third-placed Hungary beat Latvia 3-1 to reach 10 points.

The group winners qualify for Russia while the eight best second-placed teams in the nine groups go into the play-offs, with the Swiss having guaranteed at least runners-up spot.

Ronaldo needed only three minutes to open his account when he met Bernardo Silva's cross with an acrobatic volley at the far post. "I've been looking to score a goal like that for a while," he said. "That sort of goal was missing from my career and now I've done it."

Ronaldo doubled the lead in the 29th minute, sending Gunnar Nielsen the wrong way with a penalty.

Portugal then eased up and the Faroes, who had already forced an early save from Rui Patricio, pulled one back with the simplest of goals as a long throw-in was headed on at the near post and volleyed home by Rogvi Baldvinsson.

That angered Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

"We lost concentration and they scored from a move that we had studied," he said.

"I don't like us to concede goals that way."

Midfielder William Carvalho gave Portugal some breathing space by heading in from Ronaldo's cross in the 58th minute.

Carvalho returned the compliment seven minutes later when he slipped the ball to Ronaldo who dummied and fired a left-foot shot past Nielsen.

Portugal substitute Nelson Oliveira completed the scoring with an easy goal in the 85th.

Ronaldo's other hat-tricks were against Northern Ireland, Armenia, Sweden and Andorra.

Meanwhile, Belgium crushed Gibraltar 9-0 to move six points clear at the top of Group H, as second-placed Greece drew 0-0 with Estonia and third-placed Bosnia and Herzegovina lost 3-2 to Cyprus. - REUTERS



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