Jubilant Ronaldo and a team-mate

Record-breaking Cristiano Ronaldo says Portugal “believed they could win until the end” after his two late goals saw off the Republic of Ireland.

The forward, who returned to Manchester United in a surprise move earlier this week, became the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football, overtaking Iranian Ali Daei’s record.

He nodded home twice in the dying minutes of the World Cup Qualifier at the Estadio Algarve, taking him to 111 goals for Portugal – two ahead of the previous record.

The victory was a late blow for an improved Republic of Ireland, but Ronaldo had faith that Portugal could take all three points.

He said: “I’m so happy, not only because I beat the record, but for the special moments that we had. Two goals at the end of the game, it was so tough but I have to appreciate what the team did. We believed until the end, the supporters too. I’m so glad.”

It looked to be a frustrating evening for the 36-year-old, with Ronaldo having an early penalty saved by 19-year-old Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.

Of the incident, Ronaldo added: “It’s part of the game, it’s part of the business. Sometimes you score, sometimes there’s a mistake but I still believe until the end of the game. I’m so happy to score and win the game.”

He later posted on Instagram: “From all the records that I have broken during my career – and fortunately there have been a few – this one is very special for me and it’s certainly on the shelf of the achievements that make me truly proud.

“First of all, because every time I represent my country is a special moment, for knowing that I’m defending Portugal and showing to the world what Portuguese people are made of.

“Secondly, because national teams competitions have always had a very strong impact on me as I was growing up, watching my idols playing for their flags every other summer in Euros and in World Cups.

“But finally and above all, because scoring 111 goals for Portugal means 111 moments like the ones we experienced today in Algarve, moments of worldwide union and happiness for millions and millions of Portuguese citizens all around the globe. For them, every sacrifice is worth it.

“Another reason for me to appreciate this achievement as much as I do right now, is because Ali Daei has set the standards in such a high level that at some point, even I started thinking that I might never catch him.

“Congratulations to the ‘Shariar’ for holding the record for so long and thanks for always showing so much respect for me every time I scored and as I became closer and closer to his outstanding number.

“Thank you Portugal. Thanks to all my team-mates and opponents for making this journey so unforgettable. Let’s keep meeting inside the pitch in the years to come. I’m not closing the count just yet…”

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