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UEFA Nations League Roundup (Saturday matches)

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Raheem Sterling’s late penalty gave England victory as they started their Uefa Nations League campaign in Iceland – despite the hosts squandering the chance to rescue a point by missing an injury-time spot-kick.

In an chaotic end to a largely dull encounter, Sterling looked to have secured three points for manager Gareth Southgate’s side when he rolled in an 89th-minute spot-kick after his shot was handled by Sverrir Ingason, who was then sent off after receiving a second yellow card.

England, who had earlier been reduced to 10 men after Kyle Walker was also sent off for second yellow card, had to survive that last-gasp scare when Iceland were awarded a penalty for Joe Gomez’s foul but Birkir Bjarnason was wildly off target. (BBC)

Nations League holders Portugal made light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury absence as they swept aside Croatia 4-1 in their opener in the competition on Saturday.

Portugal’s national team players celebrate the third goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match, League A, group 3, Portugal vs Croatia, held at Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, 05 September 2020. EPA-EFE/FERNANDO VELUDO

European champions Portugal, in impressive form on their return to action after a 10-month new coronavirus hiatus, hit the woodwork three times before Joao Cancelo fired them ahead four minutes before halftime in the League A Group Three match. Diogo Jota and Joao Felix both scored their first international goals in the second half before Bruno Petkovic pulled one back and Andre Silva then added a fourth.

Ronaldo, who is on 99 international goals, was ruled out with a toe infection while Croatia were missing key midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic after their federation agreed not to pick them before the start of the European club season. It was the first time Ronaldo had missed a Portugal game since November 2018. (Reuters / ESPN)

Belgium enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win away to Denmark thanks to a goal in each half from Jason Denayer and Dries Mertens in their Nations League A Group 2 clash.

Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite reacts after Belgium’s team scored the opening goal during theUEFA Nations League group stage soccer match between Denmark and Belgium in Copenhagen, Denmark, 05 September 2020. EPA-EFE/LISELOTTE SABROE

The home side pressed high up the pitch and captain Simon Kjaer did a good job of shackling Belgium’s target man Romelu Lukaku but, despite decent chances for Martin Braithwaite and Christian Eriksen, they struggled to get many shots on target.

The Belgians took over in the second half, with substitute Dennis Praet snapping up the ball form an attempted clearance and forcing a smart save from Kasper Schmeichel. There was little Schmeichel could do in the 77th minute, however, after he parried a shot from Youri Tielemans and Mertens reacted quickest to slam the ball home and double the advantage as Belgium coasted to victor. (Reuters / ESPN)

A slice of luck and a moment of individual brilliance from Kylian Mbappe gave France a gritty 1-0 win away to Sweden in their Nations League A Group 3 clash. Promoted to the competition’s top tier following their group victory last year, the Swedes frustrated the world champions for the opening 40 minutes until Mbappe proved to be the difference.

France’s Kylian Mbappe is congratulated by Raphael Varane after his goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Sweden and France at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, 05 September 2020. EPA-EFE/Christine Olsson

The 21-year-old striker got a fortunate bounce off a defender’s legs as he danced through the right side of the Swedish defence before beating goalkeeper Robin Olsen from a very tight angle at his near post. With the clock ticking up towards 90 minutes, Sweden winger Emil Forsberg forced a fine save from Hugo Lloris and Marcus Berg thumped a shot that was deflected wide for a corner that the Swedes could not capitalise on as France held firm.

Anthony Martial, who was in the France squad for the first time since March 2018, came on in the second half for Mbappe and was brought down by Victor Lindelof for a late penalty. However, Antoine Griezmann fired the spot kick over the bar with the final kick of the game. Despite France’s attack failing to fire, coach Didier Deschamps declared himself satisfied with the result. (Reuters / ESPN)

Luxembourg completed a comeback victory against Azerbaijan in Baku. The visitors’ patience pays off as their domination eventually wore down the ten men of Azerbaijan, who battled bravely and looked set for a shock win at the interval.

It was mainly one-way traffic for the most part and but for a combination of Balayev’s heroics and the woodwork, could have been a more comprehensive scoreline for Holtz’s side. (UEFA)

Montenegro players cheer after scoring during the UEFA Nations League Group 1 League C soccer match between Cyprus and Montenegro at the GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, 05 September 2020. EPA-EFE/SAVVIDES PRESS

Montenegro ease to a hard-fought victory against Cyprus after their super substitute ends his international goal drought of more than three years. Jovetić made an impact almost immediately, hitting the crossbar before scoring the opener within 15 minutes of entering for the second half. The forward then added the opener to give the visitors three deserved points. (UEFA)

In the other two matches, Graeme Torrilla scored the winning goal for Gibraltar against San Marino while Georgia won a keenly-fought game against Estonia. A well-worked goal converted by Katcharava was enough for Georgia to claim all three points.


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