LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in the 90th minute as Serbia stunned Portugal with a 2-1 win on Sunday to qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar, and leave Cristiano Ronaldo in danger of missing out on the tournament after four straight appearances.
Mitrovic came off the bench to score the winner with a header after the Portugal defense failed to clear a cross into the area.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo complained with his teammates and, after the final whistle, looked desolate as he sat on the field while teammates and opposing players came to console him. Ronaldo is the men’s all-time record-scorer in international soccer with 115 goals.
A draw would have been enough for the hosts, with Portugal trying to qualify for the World Cup for the sixth straight time.
Now Portugal will have to face the playoffs, involving the other nine group runners-up and two group winners from the UEFA Nations League. The 12 countries will play next March in three four-team brackets, with the seeded teams getting a home game in the bracket semifinals.
Serbia, which had never beaten Portugal, finished first in Group A with 20 points, three more than second-place Portugal.
Renato Sanches put Portugal ahead with a right-footed shot from close range only two minutes into the match at the Stadium of Light after Bernardo Silva stole possession from a defender outside the area. Video review confirmed the goal despite Serbia claiming a foul by Silva.
Dusan Vlahovic nearly equalized for Serbia 10 minutes later with a shot that hit the post, and Dusan Tadic didn’t miss in the 33rd with a strike from outside the area that took a deflection from a defender and fooled goalkeeper Rui Patrício.
It was a well-placed cross by Tadic from the right side that allowed Mitrovic to score the winner with a header that bounced off the ground before going in past Patrício by the near post.
Portugal and Serbia entered the final round level on points after seven matches, but Portugal had the advantage of being able to qualify with a draw because of a better goal difference.
Serbia had rallied from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Portugal in March.
Portugal has played in every World Cup since 2002 after failing to make it to the tournament from 1990-1998. It was eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Serbia didn’t make it past the group stage in Russia and did not qualify for the tournament in Brazil four years earlier.
Ireland won 3-0 at Luxembourg in the other Group A game.
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The Associated Press