Cristiano Ronaldo scored an injury-time winner to give Portugal a thrilling 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory against the Republic of Ireland in Faro on Wednesday.
Before John Egan handed Ireland a half-time lead, the 36-year-old Ronaldo, whose return to Manchester United from Juventus was confirmed on Tuesday, had missed a penalty in the 15th minute.
Ronaldo, though, equalized with a header in the 89th minute, before outjumping the Irish defense once again in the sixth minute of added time.
After equaling Ali Daei’s tally of 109 international goals during Euro 2020, he surpassed the Iranian legend.
“I’m overjoyed, not just because I broke the record, but also because we had such a great occasion,” Ronaldo told Sky Sports.
“I have to commend the team’s efforts; we persevered to the finish. I’m overjoyed.”
With 10 points from four games, Portugal leads Group A, while Serbia is only three points behind with a game in hand.
The group winners go to the finals in Qatar automatically, while the runners-up advance to the playoffs.
After three defeats, including a humbling 1-0 home loss to Luxembourg in March, Ireland is currently only one point above of bottom-placed Azerbaijan.
Luxembourg overcame Azerbaijan 2-1 in the other match of the day, claiming their second win in World Cup qualifying for the first time in their history.
After Jeff Hendrick was deemed to have tripped Bruno Fernandes, Ronaldo was given the perfect opportunity to break the record on his own early on.
VAR requested that the referee take another look at the pitchside monitor, but after a lengthy delay, he decided to stick with his initial judgment.
MISTAKES BY RONALDO
But the Algarve audience was startled when Ronaldo’s well-struck penalty was saved by diving Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, a youngster on loan from Manchester City to English third-tier team Portsmouth.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner added, “It’s part of the game, part of the business.” “You score sometimes, and you make mistakes occasionally.”
Diogo Jota headed against the post shortly after the half-hour mark as the hosts continued to threaten.
However, Stephen Kenny’s Irish team gained confidence, and Aaron Connolly was prevented in the 45th minute by the legs of Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
The following corner gave Ireland a surprising lead, as centre-back Egan rose highest to flick a header into the far corner of the net.
In first-half injury time, Bazunu almost turned from hero to villain, but he managed to grab Jota’s volley at the second try after allowing the ball to wriggle out of his hands the first time.
Ireland almost increased their advantage in the second half, when Brighton striker Connolly shot wide under pressure from Joao Palhinha, despite his penalty demands for an apparent push in the back being waved away.
In the last half-hour, the Euro 2016 champions heaped on the pressure, with Bernardo Silva scoring an inexplicable goal from barely seven yards away.
Bazunu stopped Ronaldo’s free-kick from the outside of the area, but he blasted a header into the net seconds later.
Patricio saved James McClean’s attempt, which would have given Ireland all three points.
With five minutes of injury time remaining, Ronaldo met Joao Mario’s cross with another spectacular header.
Ronaldo received a red card for his celebration and will be suspended for Portugal’s next qualifier against Azerbaijan next week, but he is unlikely to be upset.