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Wednesday , November 20 2019

Ronaldo misses penalty, Bulgaria shock Portugal – Ireland sink Switzerland; France pip Netherlands

LEIRIA, Portugal, March 26, (RTRS): Brazilian-born Marcelinho scored on his Bulgaria debut while Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty for Portugal as the visitors pulled off a shock 1-0 friendly win over the Euro 2016 finalists on Friday.

Marcelinho, born in a small town in the Amazon region of Brazil and making his first international appearance at the age of 31, struck in the 20th minute of a game almost totally dominated by Portugal.

The hosts were repeatedly foiled by Bulgaria goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov who capped an outstanding display by diving to his right to save Ronaldo’s penalty, awarded for handball, in the 69th minute.

Ronaldo, who has missed three penalties this season for Real Madrid, also turned the rebound wide.

His unhappy night began when he fired over with the goal at his mercy from an unmarked position in the seventh minute.

The former FIFA World Player of the Year also had four attempts at goal from long-range free kicks, two hitting the wall and the others forcing saves from Stoyanov.

The visiting keeper made six stops in the first 10 minutes alone, including one excellent effort denying Nani, as Portugal threatened a goal spree.

Bulgaria then went in front when Marcelinho, who qualified for them after spending five years with Ludogorets Razgrad, forced his way past two defenders and poked the ball past Anthony Lopes.

After that the game became predictable as Portugal poured forward and played plenty of neat football around the Bulgaria area but either lacked the killer pass or were foiled by Stoyanov.

The goalkeeper completed his evening’s work by making a superb stop to turn away a close-range header by a frustrated Ronaldo with five minutes left.

An early goal by Ciaran Clark gave Ireland a 1-0 victory over Switzerland in a lacklustre friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Friday as both sides warmed up for Euro 2016.

The hosts comfortably defended the lead they took after two minutes when Clark headed home his second international goal after Shane Duffy had nodded on a corner from the left.

Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, who plays for the Colorado Rapids, then suffered a nasty injury in a block tackle after 22 minutes and had to go off on a stretcher.

Manager Martin O’Neill told reporters later that Doyle had a deep cut in his leg but nothing was broken.

Shane Long almost scored another goal in the 37th minute but his header hit the bar and Swiss keeper Yann Sommer caught his follow up.

Both teams made several substitutions in a second half in which there were few chances and little excitement.

Ireland, unbeaten in 10 home games under O’Neill, continue their build-up for the European Championship in France in June with a friendly at home to fellow finalists Slovakia on Tuesday.

The Irish face Italy, Belgium and Sweden at the Euros while the Swiss take on hosts France, Albania and Romania.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic left Leicester City’s Gokhan Inler out of the squad for the first time in 10 years with the experienced midfielder struggling for form.

The Swiss host Bosnia in their next friendly on Tuesday.

Ireland last beat Friday’s opponents exactly 24 years ago when John Aldridge’s 88th-minute penalty handed current England manager Roy Hodgson his first defeat as Switzerland boss.

In Amsterdam, France captain Blaise Matuidi struck late to snatch a 3-2 win over the Netherlands in a thriller as fans and players paid tribute to Johan Cruyff’s memory with a minute’s applause in Friday’s friendly.

Early goals from Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud had put France in control at the Amsterdam Arena, but Luuk de Jong pulled one back just after halftime and substitute Ibrahim Afellay equalised with a long range shot five minutes from time.

Matuidi’s 86th minute goal handed France a deserved victory as they continued their preparations ahead of hosting Euro 2016, which the Netherlands surprisingly failed to qualify for.

Griezmann fired home a sixth minute free kick before fellow forward Giroud reacted quickest to a loose ball in the penalty area to extend the visitors’ lead in the 13th minute.

The referee then stopped the game for 60 seconds as the players led the crowd in loud applause for three-time European Footballer of the Year Cruyff, who died on Thursday aged 68.

The break in the 14th minute was a homage to Cruyff, who wore the No 14 shirt, but France disappointed home hopes of remembering the Netherlands’s most famous player with a win.

Cruyff, who was a runner-up in the 1974 World Cup final, scored 33 goals in 48 games for his country and won three European Cups with Ajax Amsterdam in the early 1970s as well as taking Barcelona to the European title as manager in 1992.

Griezmann slammed his free kick into the net for the early breakthrough before Giroud added the second when the Dutch defence failed to clear a corner and Matuidi’s header back into the area saw the striker swivel sharply on to the chance.

Home goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen needed sharp reflexes to keep out Griezmann’s glancing header in the 25th and France’s Dimitri Payet struck the base of the post on the hour after a strong run and shot from midfield.

In between, the Dutch got a goal back when a curling free kick from halftime substitute Memphis Depay was bundled home by De Jong, who missed with an attempted header but scored with a combination of chest and arm, unseen by the referee.

Depay’s Manchester United team mate, France striker Anthony Martial, also came on at the break along with Leicester City midfielder Ngolo Kante, who made his debut for the visitors.

Afellay, a late call-up to the Netherlands squad, hammered home the leveller from distance after a corner that was pulled back to him outside the penalty area.

But Dutch hopes of a comeback were quashed within 60 seconds when Martial set up Matuidi, wearing Cruyff’s favourite No 14, who squeezed the ball in at the near post for the winner.

France play Russia at Stade de France on Tuesday as they continue their warm-up for the Euros, while the Dutch travel to Wembley Stadium to face Euro 2016 finalists England.

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