Ronaldo, Lewandowski hat-tricks light up Euro 2016 qualifiers
Cristiano Ronaldo's third successive hat-trick and a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick in the space of four minutes lit up Euro 2016 qualifiers on Saturday.sports Updated: Jun 14, 2015 02:34 IST
Cristiano Ronaldo's third successive hat-trick and a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick in the space of four minutes lit up Euro 2016 qualifiers on Saturday.
Portugal moved five points clear at the top of European Championship qualifying Group I after Ronaldo's hat-trick secured a crucial 3-2 win in Armenia and Poland beat Georgia 4-0 in Group D, riding on Lewandowski's heroics late in the game.
The Portuguese, who played the last 30 minutes down to 10 men, were given a real scare by an Armenian side who had picked up just a single point in their first four group games.
The hosts were under new management after former Swiss coach Bernard Challandes stood down following their last match — a 2-1 qualifying defeat against Albania.
Record caps holder (131 appearances) Sargis Hovsepyan is now in the hotseat and his influence appeared to have the desired effect as Armenia took a 14th-minute lead through Brazilian-born midfielder Marcos Pizzelli.
But Fernando Santos' Portugal levelled just before the half-hour mark via a predictable source, with World Player of the Year Ronaldo converting a penalty.
The Real Madrid superstar turned the game on its head in the 55th minute.
He got his double to put the 2012 semi-finalists in front for the first time and just three minutes later, the 30-year-old sealed his third hat-trick in as many games — after scoring two in succession for Real Madrid at the end of the domestic season — to put Portugal 3-1 in front.
But after midfielder Tiago's red card, the Portuguese had a numerical disadvantage, which allowed the hosts back into the match.
Hrayr Mkoyan struck to reduce the deficit after 72 minutes to give the Armenians hope, but Portugal held out fairly comfortably.
Portugal sit top of Group I on 12 points with Denmark — who host Serbia later on Saturday — and Albania both on seven.
Armenia remain rooted to the foot of the table with one point from five matches.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski hit his hat-trick in the space of four minutes late in the game.
Poland, who lead qualifying Group D, were in front in Warsaw thanks to a 62nd-minute strike by Arkadiusz Milik before captain Lewandowski doubled their lead in the 89th minute.
He then added another in the 92nd minute and completed a remarkable treble in the third minute of stoppage time to put the seal on a handsome win.
It is believed to be the second fastest hat-trick in the history of European Championship qualifying, after the feat of Arif Erdem, who scored three in three minutes for Turkey against Northern Ireland in the qualifying campaign for Euro 2000.
Lewandowski has now scored seven times in the campaign — the 26-year-old scored four times in the second half in a 7-0 win over Gibraltar last September.
He now has 26 international goals.
Poland are top of Group D with 14 points from six games, three points clear of Scotland and four ahead of Germany before the world champions' game against Gibraltar later on Saturday.
First Published: Jun 14, 2015 00:46 IST