Yerevan (Portugal), June 14 (IANS) A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick ensured Portugal recovered from conceding an early Armenia goal to register a 3-2 win which keeps them clear at the Euro 2016 Group I qualifying summit.
Portugal were on top from the off in Yerevan, though Gevorg Ghazaryan was played clear for Armenia but failed to make a clean connection. In the 14th minute the hosts were ahead, Marcos Pizzelli’s superb free-kick from around 25 metres getting Sargis Hovsepyan’s first game as coach off to a deceptively fine start.
However, Ilidio Vale’s visitors were level 15 minutes later. Henrikh Mkhitaryan brought down Joao Moutinho in the box and Cristiano Ronaldo converted the penalty.
Just before half-time Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovski pulled off a good stop from Fabio Coentrao. Even so, Armenia were holding their own and in the 54th minute Pizzelli shot just over.
There was a sting in the tail, though, as Ronaldo ran onto a Ricardo Carvalho clearance and snuck in ahead of Robert Arzumanyan to chip the ball in over Berezovski and increase his record number of UEFA European Championship goals to 25.
It did not take him long to make it 26, the Portugal captain superbly controlling Rui Patricio’s clearance, turning and beating Berezovski from distance. Soon after Portugal were down to ten men, Tiago receiving a second booking for a foul on Artur Sarkisov.
With 18 minutes left Armenia had a lifeline, Hrayr Mkoyan pouncing after Patricio could only parry an effort from substitute Aras Ozbiliz. Portugal held out with comfort though.