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t was only after the final whistle blew that an unwelcome England record was set: Two players being sent off in a match for the first time.

England played for an hour with 10 men after Harry Maguire was dismissed. A first starting appearance for England had just been completed when Reece James was red carded for confronting the referee following Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Denmark.

It was a landmark night for the right reasons for Christian Eriksen, who celebrated his 100th Denmark appearance with the winning penalty.

Gareth Southgate’s lineup had already been reduced to 10 men by that point after Maguire was booked twice inside 31 minutes.

“I don’t think tempers frayed,” England captain Harry Kane said. “There were some decisions that didn’t quite go our way today but that’s football.

“I don’t think we have discipline issues. It was a night when we put everything on the line. I can’t fault the boys in that aspect.”

The result leaves Group 2 wide open heading into the last two rounds of matches next month. England dropped from first to third place behind Denmark and Belgium, which took the lead with a 2-1 victory over Iceland.

Three days after beating Belgium — which leads the FIFA world rankings — England’s good work was undone. The hosts could feel aggrieved that in a rare top-level game without VAR, Eriksen scored from a disputed penalty awarded for Kyle Walker’s challenge on Thomas Delaney.

“It was very special,” Eriksen said after netting his 34th international goal in the 35th minute at a stadium he called home for a couple of years during his Tottenham career. “It’s not as fun to play at an empty Wembley compared to a full Wembley I’m used to.”

It took quick reflexes from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to palm away Mason Mount’s header and tip over a free kick from Reece James to prevent England leveling in the second half.

But it had started to go wrong for England and Maguire after five minutes. The defender earned his first booking for a sliding tackle on Yussuf Poulsen, but that didn’t curb his recklessness.

“I think the first yellow was a challenge he didn’t need to make,” Southgate said, “and that puts him on edge and the second one is an interception with his momentum taking him through.”

When his overextended left foot caught Kasper Dolberg in the 31st, Spanish referee Jesús Gil Manzano had no option but to show Maguire a second yellow card.

It’s the latest setback for Maguire, who became the world’s most expensive defender when he signed for Manchester United last year. He was withdrawn by Southgate for last month’s three England games after he was convicted in Greece of assaulting a police officer and attempted bribery while on holiday in August. Hanging over Maguire is an appeal process against the conviction and suspended 21-month sentence.

“He is going through a period where a lot of stick is coming his way,” Southgate said. “He has our full support and I know his club will be the same. We have total belief in him.”

Portugal brush off Ronaldo absence to outclass Sweden

Goals from Bernardo Silva and a brace from Diogo Jota gave Portugal a comfortable 3-0 win over Sweden in the Nations League on Wednesday as the hosts made light of the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Ronaldo’s only contribution to the game was a post on Instagram around kickoff time urging on his team mates as he remained in quarantine, and they proved more than equal to the task.

William Carvalho could have given the home side the lead in the opening minutes but his header came back of a post and bounced away to safety, and Sweden’s defence struggled to deal with Portugal’s pace and precision.

Silva opened the scoring in the 21st minute as Portugal won the ball back in the middle of the field and quickly countered, with Jota firing a pinpoint pass to Silva in the penalty area for a perfect first-time finish.

Marcus Berg went close to equalising for Sweden with a powerful shot which hit the post, but the more the Swedes attacked the more vulnerable they were to Portugal’s lightning-quick counter-attacks.

Jota got on the scoresheet just before halftime, lashing home Joao Cancelo’s cross from deep on the right to make it 2-0, and he added a superb third with a solo run and thumping shot in the 71st minute.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson will miss his side’s next Nations League game against Croatia following his second yellow card of the tournament, the 57-year-old showing his frustration with refereeing decisions that went against his team.

With 10 points from four games, Portugal top Group 2 in League A on goal difference ahead of France, who beat Croatia 2-1 in Zagreb. The Swedes are bottom of the group after slumping to four straight defeats. (From Reuters)

Mbappe strike gives France 2-1 win in Croatia

Croatia France Nations LeagueFrance’s Kylian Mbappe, centre, jumps for the ball with Croatia’s Domagoj Vida during the UEFA Nations League match between Croatia and France at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

France stretched their unbeaten run against Croatia to eight games after a late goal by Kylian Mbappe gave the world champions a 2-1 win in their Nations League top-tier Group 3 match on Wednesday.

The result left France second in the group on 10 points from four games, behind Portugal on goal difference after the European champions brushed aside Sweden 3-0. Croatia have three points and the Swedes none.

France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final before defeating them by the same score in last month’s reverse Nations League fixture.

“We knew we’d be in a real battle,” France coach Didier Deschamps told French TF1 television.

“We started very well and it’s a pity we didn’t go two goals clear as Kylian had a big chance. We did what we needed to do in the second half.

“It’s not because we won a trophy in 2018 that you win by clicking your fingers. You have to look at the way the opponents play too.”

Antoine Griezmann fired France into an eighth-minute lead when he drilled the ball home off the underside of the bar from 12 metres after Domagoj Vida failed to clear a Ferland Mendy cross from the right.

Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 as he shot wide from close range with the goal at his mercy, while visiting keeper Hugo Lloris kept out Mario Pasalic’s shot from three metres with a reflex save.

Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlasic equalised in the 65th minute, unleashing a sublime shot with the outside of his foot past Lloris after good work by Luka Modric and Josip Brekalo.

Reuters

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