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Cristiano Ronaldo helps Portugal get leg up in World Cup playoff

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo (7) scores on a diving header past Sweden defender Martin Olsson (5) and goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson on Friday in a World Cup qualifying playoff in Lisbon.
(Armando Franca / Associated Press)

Cristiano Ronaldo upstaged Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the battle of the superstar forwards to give Portugal the edge over Sweden in the World Cup playoffs, while France’s chances of qualifying took a big hit by losing, 2-0, in Ukraine.

Ronaldo transferred his prolific scoring form for Real Madrid to the international stage, diving to head home an 82nd-minute winner and give Portugal a 1-0 cushion to take to Stockholm for Tuesday’s second leg.

France faces the prospect of missing a major tournament for the first time since 1994 after Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko scored second-half goals for Ukraine in a feisty match that saw both teams finish with 10 men.

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Kostas Mitroglou’s double helped Greece claim a 3-1 win over Romania, and tiny Iceland overcame a sending-off early in the second half to hold on for a 0-0 draw with Croatia, keeping alive its hopes of becoming the least populous nation to reach a World Cup.

All four return matches take place on Tuesday, when the 13 qualifiers from Europe will be finalized.

Italy drew 1-1 with Germany and an experimental England team slumped to a 2-0 home loss to Chile in headline friendly matches as the countdown to next year’s World Cup begins in earnest.

One of the world’s top forwards will be absent in Brazil next summer — and it looks more likely to be Ibrahimovic, not Ronaldo.

The heavily billed showdown between two of the biggest stars — and egos — in football looked like falling flat in Lisbon, only for Ronaldo to take center stage like he so often does for Madrid.

He dived to glance in a left-wing cross for his 44th goal in 108 international appearances, and almost added another when he headed against the crossbar late on.

Ibrahimovic was largely anonymous in Lisbon and, at the age of 32, could be set to miss out on what would likely be his final World Cup campaign.

Another star of the world game, Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, may also be absent in Brazil after France tumbled to defeat in Kiev.

Iceland, with a population of around 320,000, is seeking a place in a major tournament for the first time, but the biggest football match in the Nordic country’s history turned sour when Olafur Skulason was sent off for a professional foul in the 51st.

However, goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson and his packed defense stood firm to repel wave after wave of Croatia attacks in the second half. The 10,000 Iceland fans in the Laugardalsvollur national stadium greeted the final whistle as if their team had won.

The United States played to an unimpressive 0-0 draw with Scotland in an exhibition game Friday, although the Americans had several strong scoring chances in the final minutes.

Substitutes Aron Johansson and Brek Shea sparked the Americans in the second half at Glasgow after they were held in check for the first 45 minutes.

This was the first game for the U.S. since completing qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. team, ranked 13th in the world after winning CONCACAF qualifying, finishes its 2013 schedule Tuesday at Austria. Scotland, ranked 35th, did not qualify for Brazil 2014.

GOLF

Stenson leads at Dubai

Henrik Stenson remained in position to win the European Tour money title, opening a one-stroke lead Friday in the season-ending World Tour Championship at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Swede had an eight-under 64 to reach 12 under after two rounds on Jumeirah’s Earth Course.

Stenson also leads the Race to Dubai standings. The points champion will receive $1 million from a $3.75-million bonus pool that counts on the final money list. In September, Stenson won the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship to take the FedEx Cup title and $10 million bonus.

Stenson had a five-stroke advantage over England’s Justin Rose, second in the points standings. Graeme McDowell, third in the points race, was eight strokes behind Stenson.

Spain’s Alejandro Canizares was second after a 67.

Robert Karlsson and Kevin Stadler topped the OHL Classic leaderboard at 12 under when second-round play at Playa del Carmen, Mexico, was suspended because of darkness.

Karlsson played 36 holes Friday, shooting an eight-under 63 in the rain-delayed first round and adding a 67 in the afternoon on Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon course.

Stadler had rounds of 67 and 63 in a 34-hole day.

Only 29 of the 127 players were able to complete the second round.

Rory Sabbatini and Chris Stroud were tied for second at nine under. Sabbatini had one hole left when play was suspended, and Stroud had three to go.

Defending champion Adam Scott birdied two of his final four holes for a share of the lead after the second round of the Australian Masters. Scott had a five-under 66 at Royal Melbourne to match fellow Australian Nathan Holman at 9-under 133.

Holman had a 65. Australians Matthew Griffin (65) and Nick Cullen (69) were a stroke back. American Matt Kuchar (66) was four strokes behind.

Leukemia survivor Jarrod Lyle shot an even-par 71 to make the 36-hole cut in his first tournament in 20 months. He was one over, 10 strokes behind Scott and Holman.

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu each birdied the final hole for a share of the second-round lead with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Nordqvist and Ryu shot five-under 67 to match Phatlum at nine-under 135. Phatlum, the first-round leader in the 36-player event, had a 69.

South Korea’s Inbee Park was a stroke back along with Americans Lexi Thompson and Gerina Piller.

ETC.

Kenseth wins pole for Sprint Cup finale

Matt Kenseth won the pole at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway for Sunday’s season-ending and championship-deciding NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

It was a massive turnaround for Kenseth after his worst performance of the season last week at Phoenix. He finished 23rd to fall 28 points behind championship leader Jimmie Johnson leading into the finale.

Johnson qualified seventh. But he needs only to finish 23rd or higher to win his sixth championship.

Kevin Harvick is the only other driver mathematically eligible to win the title and goes into the race 34 points behind Johnson. He qualified one spot ahead of Johnson in sixth.

Matt Crafton won the NASCAR Truck Series championship even before the green flag dropped Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But it was Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch who won the 200-mile race, his fifth victory of the season in the Truck Series. And with Crafton crossing the finish line 21st, Busch earned himself the owners’ championship.

With a 46-point lead over Ty Dillon, all Crafton needed to do was start the finale to secure his first series championship in 13 seasons. Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by Jeb Burton, Brendan Gaughan and Ron Hornaday Jr.

Crafton had his lowest finish of the season.

Busch has 21 victories this season in NASCAR’s three national series, also winning four times in Cup and 12 in Nationwide. Overall, he has 126 victories — 28 in Cup, a record 63 in Nationwide and 35 in Truck.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Tomas Berdych of defending champion Czech Republic did what was expected of them Friday, winning their matches and leaving the Davis Cup final at 1-1 after the opening day at Belgrade.

Djokovic beat Radek Stepanek, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4, in the first singles. Berdych then defeated rookie Dusan Lajovi, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, on the indoor hard court at Belgrade Arena.

In Kearns, Utah, South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa broke the world record in the women’s 500 meters Friday in a World Cup speedskating meet at the Utah Olympic Oval, finishing in 36.57 seconds.

China’s Wang Beixing was second in 36.85, Heather Richardson finished third in a U.S.-record 36.97.

More fast times followed on the track called the “fastest ice on Earth.” American Shani Davis, the world-record holder in the men’s 1,500, won the event in 1:41.98.

Fellow American Brian Hansen was second in 1:42.16, followed by the Netherlands’ Koen Verweij in 1:42.28.


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