Algarve (Portugal), October 13: Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Portugal cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifying clash.
Ronaldo took just eight minutes to open the scoring at the Estadio Algarve as he finished from the penalty spot before doubling his tally soon after in the same fashion.
Bruno Fernandes netted a third inside a decisive opening 20 minutes before the Manchester United playmaker assisted Joao Palhinha for the fourth in the second half.
Ronaldo then secured his hat-trick with three minutes remaining to cap the hosts' dominant performance and ensure they remain a point behind Group A leaders Serbia – who have played a game more – ahead of the next international break.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 24 goals in his last 16 World Cup qualifying matches pic.twitter.com/ot00daOXHV UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) October 12, 2021
Sebastien Thill and Anthony Moris were the guilty parties for the early penalties with fouls on Bernardo Silva and Ronaldo, the latter clinically converting both.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Fernandes made it 3-0 despite Moris getting a hand to his right-footed drive following Silva's throughball after 17 minutes.
Ronaldo almost claimed his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time but was denied by Moris, who also saved Silva's acrobatic volley.
Danel Sinani brought a rare save from Rui Patricio, with both Palhinha and Fernandes missing the target at the other end after being found by Nuno Mendes' searching deliveries.
Ronaldo's overhead-kick deserved to complete his treble, but Moris tipped over before Palhinha headed home from Fernandes' resulting corner.
Luxembourg almost grabbed a consolation goal through Gerson Rodrigues, but his left-footed strike was turned away by Patricio and Ronaldo completed the scoring as he headed in from Ruben Neves' deep cross.
What does it mean? Portugal keep pressure on Serbia at Group A summit
Luxembourg, who have claimed six points so far, may sit third in the group but it is a two-horse race for automatic qualification for Qatar 2022.
Serbia's 3-1 win over Azerbaijan keeps them a point ahead of Portugal, albeit Fernando Santos' side have a game in hand with two matches left to play. The two top teams will meet on the final matchday, in what is likely to act as a winner-takes-all decider.
As Ronaldo and Fernandes ran riot once more, Joao Moutinho quietly went about his business as he delivered a midfield masterclass.
The 35-year-old recorded a game-high three key passes – as many as his opponents combined – and completed 23 passes in the opposition half, with only Joao Cancelo (25) managing more.
Thill endured a torrid outing before his half-time removal as he failed to combat Portugal's excellent midfield trio of Palhinha, Moutinho and Fernandes.
The Luxembourg midfielder gave away the first penalty against Bernardo Silva and won none of the four duels he competed for in a timid showing from the Sheriff man.
Portugal travel to the Republic of Ireland in their next World Cup qualifying match on November 11, while Luxembourg visit Azerbaijan on the same day.