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Nations League: Ronaldo leads rout of Switzerland, Haaland sinks Sweden

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Portugal swept to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Switzerland in the Nations League, while new Manchester City signing Erling Haaland also scored twice as Norway beat Sweden 2-1.

William Carvalho and João Cancelo were also on the scoresheet as hosts Portugal wasted numerous opportunities to inflict more humiliation on the visitors, who suffered their biggest defeat since losing to Germany by the same scoreline in 2008.

Portugal have four points from their opening two Group A2 matches and are ahead of second-place Czech Republic on goal difference. Switzerland are on zero after back-to-back losses and are now winless in their last four encounters since they qualified for the World Cup in Qatar.

Carvalho opened the scoring when he reacted quickest to the loose ball when Ronaldo’s free-kick was parried, before the latter bagged a quickfire brace to extend his record tally of international goals to 117. Ronaldo should have had a hat-trick when he wasted two excellent opportunities before half-time, the first a barely believable miss from six yards, but it was left to Cancelo to score the fourth for Portugal in the second half.

Elsewhere in Group A2, a late goal from defender Iñigo Martínez rescued a 2-2 draw for Spain against Czech Republic. Sparta Prague forward Jakub Pesek scored from close range in the fourth minute, connecting with a pass from Jan Kuchta who got in behind Spain’s defence.

The visitors equalised on the strike of half-time when Spain midfielder Gavi beat Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik with a shot to the far post. However, the Czechs retook the lead in the 66th minute when forward Jan Kuchta lobbed goalkeeper Unai Simon from just outside the area after he was sent through on goal alone.

Spain scored in the 90th minute to break the hearts of the home fans when Martínez connected with a cross from Marco Asensio and his header just crossed the line.

In Group B4, Haaland struck a goal in each half to bring his international tally to 18 in 19 games. The visitors took the lead when Morten Thorsby was awarded a soft penalty by referee Anthony Taylor for some innocuous contact in the box by Emil Krafth.

Haaland, who scored the winner against Serbia in their opening game, thumped the spot kick to the right of Robin Olsen in the 20th minute. Sweden’s only attempts on target in the opening 45 minutes came from a pair of Emil Forsberg free kicks just before the break, but despite a string of decent attacks and set pieces early in the second half, they couldn’t manage to fashion an equaliser.

Haaland made them pay in the 69th minute, latching on to a loose ball and surging powerfully into the box before flashing a low right-foot shot across Olsen and into the net to make it 2-0. Haaland missed a great chance to complete his hat-trick three minutes later and was replaced by Joshua King soon after.

Anthony Elanga scored a stoppage time goal for the Swedes that proved too little, too late as Norway held on to win.

Meanwhile, Ian Baraclough insisted he could handle the criticism which will come his way after Northern Ireland’s latest Nations League setback as he called for patience with a young squad finding its way. The same problems that were evident in Thursday’s disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Greece plagued Northern Ireland again in a poor goalless draw with a Cyprus side who should arguably have won the contest in Larnaca as Baraclough’s men turned in another disjointed performance.

The draw extends Northern Ireland’s winless run in this competition to 12 matches, and this was only their third ever point. In a week when Baraclough has already faced questions about pressure, sections of the 600-strong travelling support greeted the final whistle with jeers at the AEK Arena with some fans frustrated at the lack of progress.

“There are always people questioning your position,” he said. “People aren’t happen when you win games because you’re not winning them by big enough margins. It comes with the territory. I’ve got thick skin.”

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