Ronaldo’s hat trick sends Portugal into Nations League final

PORTO, Portugal (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Portugal defeated Switzerland 3-1 Wednesday to reach the final of the inaugural UEFA’s Nations League.

Ronaldo converted a first-half free kick then netted two late goals to give the hosts a spot in Sunday’s final of UEFA’s newest competition.

Portugal will play either the Netherlands or England, which meet in the other semifinal on Thursday in Guimaraes. Switzerland will face that game’s loser in the third-place game, also on Sunday.

Switzerland’s second-half equalizer by Ricardo Rodriguez came from a highly controversial penalty kick awarded after a video review that canceled out a penalty that had been awarded for Portugal as play continued.

Portugal will be seeking its second international title after winning the 2016 European Championship with a team led by Ronaldo.

The star forward put Portugal ahead at the Estadio do Dragao with a well-taken free kick in the 25th minute. His shot dropped quickly after going over the wall, catching Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer flat-footed.

When the game seemed headed to extra time, Ronaldo came through to put the hosts ahead again. He scored with a shot from inside the area after a nice pass by Bernardo Silva in the 88th, then completed his sixth international hat trick in the 90th, entering the area and cutting back inside before firing a shot into the far corner.

Ronaldo had taken time off from the national team after last year’s World Cup and hadn’t yet played in the Nations League. It was only his third match with Portugal this year after returning to the squad for European Championship qualifiers.

The match marked the international debut of the player Portuguese fans call Ronaldo’s successor, 19-year-old Joao Felix, the Benfica forward who has been attracting the attention of some top clubs in Europe.

Felix had a golden chance to score his first goal with Portugal just before halftime, but he couldn’t get a clean shot off after receiving a pass with only the goalkeeper to beat. The youngster was replaced by Goncalo Guedes in the 70th.

German referee Felix Brych didn’t initially award the penalty for Switzerland after Seven Zuber was touched by Nelson Semedo inside the area, and as play continued he instead called one for Portugal when Silva was fouled in the other box.

After a long delay, Brych went to the VAR cabin and reversed the non-call for the first penalty, allowing Rodriguez to convert the spot kick in the 57th to even the score.

Portugal loudly complained as the contact between Semedo and Zuber appeared to be incidental.

It was the first time the VAR was used in a UEFA competition between national teams.

Before the game, a moment of silence was observed in honor of former UEFA president Lennart Johansson, who died Wednesday at age 89.

Source: FOX Sport

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