Bernardo Silva's increasing influence on Portugal shines through with a 9 in entertaining Serbia win

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Reigning European champions Portugal belatedly got their Euro 2020 qualifying bid back on track with an entertaining 4-2 win over Serbia in Belgrade.

Fernando Santos’ side sit second but are eight points behind Group B leaders Ukraine after two frustrating opening draws against the table toppers and Serbia in Lisbon last time out. The Ukraine have played two more games but the Euro 2016 champions were in need of a result to get their campaign off the ground, and they got it with a performance inspired by Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.

He scored the fourth and laid on an 89th international goal for Cristiano Ronaldo from 159 caps, although having led 2-0 on the hour, Portugal were made to fight for the three points after the dogged hosts dug in and reduced the lead to 2-1 and then 3-2.

Portugal led when William Carvalho profited from a mix-up in the Serbia box to prod home. Goncalo Guedes fired in a brilliant second to seemingly make the game safe but Nikola Milenkovic was then left free to head in and make it 2-1. Ronaldo chipped in to make it 3-1 but Serbia came back again when Aleksandar Mitrovic thumped into the roof of Rui Patricio’s net.

Minutes later though, Silva struck a killer blow when he found the bottom corner to finally seal the win.

Ronaldo

PORTUGAL (4-1-4-1)

Rui Patricio 6: Fairly untested until the home side’s goal. Could have maybe done better for Mitrovic’s strike although it arrowed into the top corner.

Nelson Semedo 5: Barcelona full-back had a quiet game. Didn’t do much wrong but didn’t stand out in a positive way either. Failed to make impact going forward that Guerreiro did.

Ruben Dias 6: Put himself about and was generally commanding until Mitrovic came to life. Perhaps showed him too much of the goal for late strike but in truth did little wrong.

Jose Fonte 7: Thunderous challenge on Tadic then slid in to deny Mitrovic who was offside in any case. Now 35 but doesn’t look out of place on international stage.

Raphael Guerreiro 6: Solid outing down the left, diligent in defence but also making forays forward often. Teed up Silva for the crucial fourth goal.

Danilo 5: Patrolled the midfield looking to add his bite to a tetchy encounter. Struggled to keep tabs on a marauding Tadic though.

Bernardo Silva 9: Buzzed around with his usual energy and intent, had a role in side’s second goal before through ball found Ronaldo. After Serbia’s second he killed the game with an expertly executed low drive to make it 4-2.

Bruno Fernandes 7: Astute cross caused havoc in home defence as Portugal profited to go ahead. Worked well in tandem with Silva and surely can’t be long until a big club snaps him up from Sporting Lisbon.

William Carvalho 8: Lucky not to see yellow for a dangerous high boot early on. Then in right place to fire in when opportunity arose. Relished the physical battle with tough Serbia side.

Goncalo Guedes 7: Lashed a loose clearance well over. After the break made game comfortable with rifled finish after brilliantly tricking his way past Maksimovic.

Cristiano Ronaldo 7: Ordered to his feet after an early dive. Came to life in second half with a fizzing curler that whizzed just wide. Free-kick minutes later had same result. Intelligent run and sumptuous chip over Dmitrovic secured points, although he looked offside.

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Joao Felix 6: Exciting Atletico Madrid starlet got 20 minutes but although he looked bright he made little impact. Sent a deflected late shot wide.

Joao Cancelo 6: Man City new boy replaced Semedo but had trouble keeping an improving Serbia from coming forward.

Joao Moutinho N/A: Brought on late to replace Fernandes and try and help Portugal see out the victory.

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Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley resplendent as Harry Kane bags hat-trick in easy England win

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Harry Kane’s hat-trick helped blow away Bulgaria and continue England‘s European Championship qualification cakewalk.

Bulgaria are not the side they once were and the 1994 World Cup semi-finalists set up to frustrate England, only for needlessly overconfident play at the back to bring about Kane’s opener midway through the first half.

The England captain netted his second when Marcus Rashford was brought down in the box early in the second half, with the striker turning provider as Sterling bundled home minutes later.

Kane would end the day celebrating his second international hat-trick after scoring his second penalty of the day, adding gloss to another big win that England will look to build on against Kosovo in Southampton this Tuesday.

Here’s how the players rated:

Jordan Pickford: Was tested on four occasions and never looked like conceding, with his second-half save from Wanderson particularly impressive. 8

Kieran Trippier: Recalled to the side and making his first England appearance since October last year, Trippier got up and down the flank well. 6

Michael Keane: Earned a yellow card in the first half for a clumsy challenge, but rarely tested defensively. 6

Harry Maguire: Covered ground when he needed to and bullied Bulgaria’s attack in a commanding display. 7

Danny Rose: Rose has struggled for Spurs this season, but was a constant threat down the left. 7

Jordan Henderson: Worked hard and saw plenty of the ball, but not his most influential display for his country. 6

Declan Rice: Showed tenacity and steel in the middle of the park in a display which suggests he will be in this team for some time. 7

Ross Barkley: Made the Three Lions tick with a virtuoso performance and always looked to get on the ball. 8

Raheem Sterling: Made England’s first goal with his tireless pressing and added his seventh goal in seven international games. 8

Harry Kane: Took himself above Geoff Hurst on the list of England goalscorers to 25 with a hat-trick, two of them penalties, while also adding an assist. 9

Marcus Rashford: His pace frightened Bulgaria and his skill won England’s first penalty, while almost adding a late fifth. 7

SUBS

Mason Mount (on for Henderson, 66): Given his international debut and bombed forward but made no real impact. 6

Jadon Sancho (on for Sterling, 71): Could not expose a tired Bulgaria defence despite some promising positions. 6

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (On for Kane, 77): Looked neat and tidy on his first England appearance since March 2018. 6

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Harry Kane hat-trick blows away Bulgaria as England Euro 2020 qualification cakewalk continues

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Hat-trick hero: Harry Kane.

Harry Kane‘s hat-trick helped blow away Bulgaria and continue England’s European Championship qualification cakewalk.

After finishing third in the inaugural Nations League over the summer, the Three Lions got their international season under way at the stadium they hope to end the campaign at when Wembley hosts the Euro 2020 final.

England are among the favourites to lift the trophy next summer and qualification for the finals is well in hand, with March’s drubbings of the Czech Republic and Montenegro followed by a 4-0 win against Bulgaria thanks to Kane’s treble and a Raheem Sterling goal.

Despite humility being the buzzword around the camp in the build-up, this was the kind of result expected by the sell-out Wembley crowd on Saturday.

Bulgaria are not the side they once were and the 1994 World Cup semi-finalists set up to frustrate England, only for needlessly overconfident play at the back to bring about Kane’s opener midway through the first half.

The England captain netted his second when Marcus Rashford was brought down in the box early in the second half, with the striker turning provider as Sterling bundled home minutes later.

Kane would end the day celebrating his second international hat-trick after scoring his second penalty of the day, adding gloss to another big win that England will look to build on against Kosovo in Southampton this Tuesday.

Southgate kept with the tried and tested for a match against a Bulgarian side that sat deep from the outset.

Kane was closely marshalled early on and the visitors’ backline was up to six-men deep when England were in possession.

Jordan Henderson’s hopeful volley was the best they could muster as they patiently prodded and probed, with a correct offside call denying the hosts a 19th-minute opener after Kane fired home a low Sterling cross.

But soon Bulgaria became the architects of their own downfall.

Playing out from the back is noble but perhaps foolhardy when Sterling is about. The England forward nipped in to cut out goalkeeper Plamen Iliev’s poor ball to Vasil Bozhikov, who he darted past before slowing down and crossing for Kane to fire home.

It was a 24th minute gut punch that Bulgaria were always going to struggle to recover from, even if it was not the precursor to a glut of first-half goals. Kane’s header from returning right-back Kieran Trippier’s cross was the best England would muster before the break.

Bulgaria had been camped in their own territory for the bulk of the first half, with Wanderson and Galin Ivanov having their only attempts before the former tested Jordan Pickford from an acute angle just after half-time.

Hope of a shock equaliser would be short-lived, though, as Rashford burst down the left flank and drew a clumsy challenge out of Nikolay Bodurov. Kane stepped up to send Iliev the wrong way as the resulting penalty flew into the top right-hand corner.

Harry Maguire headed wide as England pushed for a third that would arrive in the 55th minute as Kane’s cross was turned home from close range by Sterling.

Mexican waves rippled around Wembley with the sting taken out of the proceedings, with Chelsea talent Mason Mount brought on for his England debut in place of Henderson.

But Kane ensured he would take both the headlines and match ball.

Kristian Dimitrov’s recovery challenge on the striker led referee Marco Guida to point to the spot, with the skipper dusting himself down to lash home.

Pickford produced a Hollywood stop from Ivelin Popov’s free-kick to prevent Bulgaria grabbing a consolation, while opposite number Iliev denied Rashford a superb goal after playing a one-two with Ross Barkley.

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