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Ronaldo bags hat-trick, Portugal and Spain settles for draw

Agency Press France

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SOCHI — Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick as Portugal snatched a 3-3 draw with Spain in a World Cup 2018 on Friday.

Ronaldo crashed in an 88th minute free-kick to snatch a point for Portugal after a second-half goal from Nacho put the Spaniards 3-2 ahead.

Ronaldo’s late equaliser capped a storming encounter which came after a chaotic few days which saw Spain coach Julen Lopetegui sacked and Fernando Hierro appointed as his replacement.

Earlier, Ronaldo had twice put the European champions in front only for Diego Costa to bring Spain level on each occasion on a steamy night on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

But then Ronaldo stepped up to send his free-kick from 25 yards up over the wall and into the net, as the Iberian neighbours settled for a point apiece in this Group B encounter.

It was a remarkable signal of intent from the current Ballon d’Or winner, who had never made a serious impact in any of his previous three World Cups, only managing to score one goal in each.

In one night the Real Madrid superstar doubled his World Cup finals goal tally, and made history by scoring at an eighth consecutive major tournament going back to Euro 2004, when he was still a teenager.

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It was typical of the now 33-year-old to take the headlines after news from the Spain camp had dominated the build-up to this game.

The evening had started in style for Ronaldo, as he scored a fourth-minute penalty after going down in the box under a foul from Nacho, playing at right-back with Dani Carvajal not fit.

Hierro, who cut an animated figure as he stood on the touchline with his sleeves rolled up, must have wondered at that point what he had let himself in for.

Yet Spain responded well and had the better of the game, as they drew level for the first time in the 24th minute via a trademark piece of centre-forward play by Costa.

He left Pepe on the floor as the pair challenged for a high ball, before breaking into the box and planting a low shot into the bottom corner.

The Portugal players were furious that no foul was given as Costa led with his forearm into the challenge on Pepe, but the officials let the goal stand without feeling the need to call on the Video Assistant Referee.

Spain then thought they had taken the lead as Isco smashed in a shot that bounced down onto the line off the underside of the bar, yet this time goal-line technology showed it was not in.

With Andres Iniesta, Isco and David Silva pulling the strings, Spain were on top, but Portugal went back in front just as half-time approached.

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Goncalo Guedes teed up his captain Ronaldo, whose shot from 20 yards was straight at David De Gea, but the Manchester United goalkeeper could only help it on its way.

It looked like Ronaldo’s first-half efforts might be in vain, as Spain regrouped at the interval and drew level 10 minutes into the second half with a textbook set-piece counter.

A free-kick floated into the area was headed back across the face of goal by Sergio Busquets and Costa was there to turn it in. Three minutes after that, Nacho’s glorious effort from 22 yards made it 3-2, his half-volley curling into the net off the left-hand post.

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SAFF U-15 women’s championship begins today; India face Sri Lanka in inaugural match

Gorkha Post

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THIMPU — Six under 15 teams from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal are participating the second edition of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-15 Women’s championship, Thimphu that is kicking off from Thursday.

India and Sri Lanka are facing each other in an inaugural game at the Changlingmithang stadium. The match is taking place at Thimphu-based Changlimithang Stadium at 4:00 pm local time.

Similarly, Bangladesh and Pakistan under Group B are facing each other in the second game scheduled at 7:00 pm local time today itself.

At the pre press conference held in Thimphu on Wednesday, the coaches and team captains from six countries said that SAFF U-15 Women’s championship 2018 would be the toughest championship.

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Of the six countries, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are taking part in the championship for the first time. Bhutan is hosting the 10-day championship for the first time.

Bangladesh had won the title by defeating India 1-0 in the first edition of the Championship held in Bangladesh.

Nepal’s 32-member women’s football team had left Tuesday for Bhutan to play in the Second U-15 SAFF Championship Women Football.

The team comprises 23 players, three coaches, five officials and one sports journalist. Nepal is placed in Group B of the Championship. Nepal will play against Pakistan on August 11 in the first game and against Bangladesh on August 13.

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