Ronaldo bemoans loss; plays down 700th goal

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) in action.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) in action.PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV • Cristiano Ronaldo's 700th career goal put him in rarefied company, but the 2-1 Euro 2020 qualifier loss in Ukraine on Monday night took the shine off his achievement, leaving a "bitter taste" in the mouth of the Portugal captain.

While he pulled one back from the spot in the second half for his 95th international strike, the European champions were unable to overcome the half-time lead Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko gave Ukraine.

Portugal dominated the second half, but could not find an equaliser despite the hosts going down to 10 men after Taras Stepanenko's red card for a second bookable offence.

Ukraine will now join Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium at next year's Finals, having secured their berth as Group B winners with a game to spare.

While Ronaldo admitted joining greats Gerd Muller, Ferenc Puskas, Pele, Romario and Josef Bican as the only players to have scored 700 or more goals was a "nice moment", he was unhappy that Portugal failed to find their cutting edge despite having more shots on target (nine to four) and 60 per cent of the possession.

He said: "We played well, but we didn't win. We did everything we could and had plenty of chances."

On his latest feat, the 34-year-old, who is the all-time leading Champions League scorer with 127 strikes, added: "The records come naturally, I don't look for them, the records look for me.

"I thank everyone, teammates, colleagues, coaches and everyone who helped Cristiano become the player that he is."

Portugal, who are second on 11 points and one ahead of Serbia, must win their two remaining games but are still huge favourites to qualify. They have only minnows in their way, Lithuania at home and Luxembourg away.

But coach Fernando Santos warned that there was no more margin for error, adding: "We played too much with our hearts and not enough with our heads."

In Paris, France were forced to wait until next month before their spot can be confirmed after the world champions were held to a 1-1 high-octane Group H draw with Turkey.

Kaan Ayhan equalised late on after substitute Olivier Giroud had headed the opener for his 38th international goal, just three behind Michel Platini's mark of 41.

France coach Didier Deschamps, whose team can seal qualification with a home win over Moldova on Nov 14, admitted "we should have been more efficient".

But against a tough Turkish side, who are also set to make it to the Finals, he was content with "a good point".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline 'Ronaldo bemoans loss; plays down 700th goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe