YEREVAN (UEFA.com) — A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick ensured Portugal recovered from conceding an early Armenia goal to register a win which keeps them clear at the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group I summit.
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, Ilídio Vale’s visitors were level 15 minutes later. Henrikh Mkhitaryan brought down João Moutinho in the box and Cristiano Ronaldo converted the penalty.
Just before half-time Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovski pulled off a good stop from Fábio Coentrão. 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 Patrício’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 Patrício could only parry an effort from substitute Aras Özbiliz. Portugal held out with comfort though.