World Cup qualifiers

March 29, 2021

RONALDO FUMES AS SERBIA SNATCH DRAW Cristiano Ronaldo stormed off the pitch before fulltime when he was denied a clear stoppage-time winner in a 2-2 draw in Serbia, while Belgium were held 1-1 by the Czech Republic in World Cup qualifiers on Saturday. Ronaldo threw off the captain’s armband and headed for the tunnel when his effort was cleared by Serbia defender Stefan Mitrovic after it had crossed the line, with Dutch referee Danny Makkelie waving play on. With no VAR in place to review the decision, Serbia held out for a draw having fought their way back into the match from two goals down in Belgrade. Forward Diogo Jota, whose brace had given the Portuguese a 2-0 lead in the first half, said: “What happened can’t happen at this level because we switched off and let Serbia draw level 15 minutes into the second half.” MARTINEZ PLEASED WITH CHARACTER OF THE TEAM Belgium may have played a poor game in drawing at the Czech Republic in their World Cup qualifier but coach Roberto Martinez said the character of the team had pleased him. The Belgians, top of the FIFA rankings, had to fight back for a 1-1 draw in Prague in their Group E game on Saturday with record scorer Romelu Lukaku equalising in the second half. “I saw resilience and character. We really wanted to come back after going behind. Concentration returned, we became dangerous again. I would like to emphasise that we did not accept that we could lose,” said Martinez. NETHERLANDS BEAT LATVIA FOR FIRST POINTS Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong scored either side of halftime as the Netherlands got their World Cup qualifying hopes back on track with a 2-0 home win over plucky Latvia on Saturday. The Dutch were looking for a strong response after a shock 4-2 loss to Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday at the start of their Group G campaign. The victory left them three points behind early group leaders Turkey, who beat Norway 3-0 on Saturday. Meanwhile, Stephanie Frappart reached another milestone on Saturday when she became the first female referee to take charge of a men’s World Cup qualifier during the Netherlands’ 2-0 win over Latvia in Amsterdam. Earlier in December, Frenchwoman Frappart became the first female official to take charge of a men’s Champions League match when Italian champions Juventus defeated Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv 3-0 in the group stage in Turin. She also refereed the Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea in 2019, and the women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and the Netherlands the same year. DZYUBA DOUBLE GIVES RUSSIA 2-1 WIN Captain Artem Dzyuba scored twice to give Russia a 2-1 win over Slovenia in front of 15,000 fans in Sochi’s Fisht Stadium on Saturday, putting the home side top of their World Cup qualifying group after two games. Russia, who have six points, play Slovakia away next, while Slovenia play Cyprus, with both games to be played on Tuesday.

-With The Daily Star input

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