Cristiano Ronaldo "is a player who really needs to play" insisted Portugal head coach Fernando Santos, who appeared to criticise Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ronaldo scored for the ninth time in seven Portugal appearances as the Selecao eased past Qatar 3-0 in Saturday's international friendly.

The all-time leading men's international scorer with 112, Ronaldo started and played 45 minutes after he was benched by United boss Solskjaer in the Premier League last week.

Ronaldo – who has scored against a record 46 nations for Portugal – was rested as Solskjaer opted to start Edinson Cavani before introducing the Portuguese superstar for the final 33 minutes in a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Everton.

After Portugal's routine win, Santos seemingly aimed a subtle dig at Solskjaer in Ronaldo's historic 181st international appearance.

"It was important to give him some playing time and I understood that it would be better to give him 45 minutes," Santos said post-match.

"Ronaldo is a player who really needs to play, to have contact with the ball. Training is not the same thing. In the last match, he had played 20 minutes [it was 33 minutes]."

Ronaldo has hit the ground running in his second stint with United, the 36-year-old having returned from Juventus before the end of the transfer window.

Named September's Player of the Month in the Premier League, Ronaldo has scored five goals for United, including three in the Premier League.

Ronaldo has outperformed his expected goals (xG – 1.03), expected goals on target (xGOT – 0.9) and goals (0.89) – all three topping the Premier League list.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the ninth time in seven Portugal appearances as the Selecao cruised to a straightforward 3-0 friendly win over Qatar on Saturday.

With Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup in 13 months' time, this was another opportunity for them to test themselves against higher-quality opposition, but they were outclassed by a Portugal side who hardly got out of second gear.

Ronaldo capitalised on a defensive error to put Portugal 1-0 in front late in the first half, with the hosts having created numerous chances beforehand.

Jose Fonte's first ever international goal and an Andre Silva header then sealed the win for Portugal in the second period, with Qatar – who could only muster a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg last time out – offering no threat to Diogo Costa in the home side's net.

Portugal peppered the Qatar goal in the first half but were initially rather wasteful.

Silva smashed an effort into the face of Saad Al Sheeb when one-on-one in the 12th minute, though the goalkeeper knew a little more about his save soon after to deny Goncalo Guedes at the end of a bursting solo run.

Ronaldo was then guilty of slicing wide from 10 yards after reaching Diogo Dalot's cross, but he was on hand to tap in when a defender failed to clear a header across goal from his Manchester United team-mate.

Al Sheeb was drawn into a necessary save to keep out Danilo Pereira's header two minutes after the interval, but he parried the ball right to Fonte, who slammed in from close range.

A host of substitutions saw Portugal's tempo drop even further – not that it mattered. They still looked infinitely more dangerous as Silva continued to keep the Qatar defence and goalkeeper busy.

The forward did eventually find the net, meeting a wonderful cross from debutant substitute Rafael Leao – who had previous hit the crossbar and post – with a stooping header that wrapped up a simple victory.

What does it mean? Fernando Santos learns precious little

The objective of this friendly from Portugal's perspective was presumably just to keep players sharp ahead of next week's competitive action. Other than that, it is difficult to see what benefit this game was to the Selecao.

The gulf in quality was massive, far greater than the scoreline ultimately suggested, which probably is not a particularly encouraging thought for a Qatar side who will be keen not to be embarrassed as World Cup hosts next year.

Dalot stakes his claim

While the quality of the opposition may not have been great, Dalot certainly did his chances of earning a regular spot no harm with his performance on either flank. His five chances created were not bettered by anyone on the pitch, while he also played the pass that led to Ronaldo's opener.

Silva gets reward for persistence

Silva's overall display was good, with the RB Leipzig striker a regular threat to the Qatar goal, though he was quite wasteful. He had six shots – only two of which were on target – before eventually finding the net with his seventh.

What's next?

Portugal return to World Cup qualification on Tuesday as they host Luxembourg.

Portugal boss Fernando Santos is worried by the number of goals his side have conceded in recent games.

The Selecao claimed a 3-1 win over nine-man Qatar in Saturday's friendly to make it back-to-back victories since exiting Euro 2020 to Belgium at the last-16 stage.

Santos made 11 changes on the back of the late 2-1 victory over Republic of Ireland and Portugal took time to get going against World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar.

However, quickfire goals from Andre Silva and debutant Otavio put Portugal in control at half-time, at which point Qatar were a player short after Meshaal Barsham was dismissed.

Portugal switched off in the second period and gave their opponents a route back into the game when Abdelkarim Hassan headed in unmarked.

Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty late on to seal the win for the 2016 European champions, but Santos was not entirely pleased with his much-changed side's performance.

"In the first 15 minutes, we were good in terms of our defensive organisation," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"When Qatar were looking to attack from behind, we were good. We never let Qatar create, we stole a lot of balls and with clear situations of being able to score on the counter.

"But in ball circulation, we were very slow and a lot of passes went astray, which allowed Qatar to create two or three opportunities on the counter-attack. 

"They have very fast players up front. In the first 15 minutes, in terms of scoring opportunities, we ended up being equal. 

"After those 15 minutes, the possibility for them to counter-attack ended, the team began to circulate in a different way, creating situations with lots of security. 

"We pressed very well, made it 2-0 and it could have been more.

"We were still good in the first 10 minutes of the second half. But we disconnected a little and let the opponent pick up the ball and they scored, meaning we couldn't relax."

Portugal, who required a couple of late headers from Cristiano Ronaldo to overcome Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, have now conceded nine goals in their last five matches.

That follows on from a run of three games in a row without conceding earlier this year.

"A team that concedes nine goals in five games is worrying," Santos added. "There are things we have always done very well and one of them is defensive set-pieces.

"It was very rare for us to concede goals like that, but now we do. I've already alerted the players to that. Just this morning we spent time working on set-pieces."

Brazilian-born Otavio obtained Portuguese citizenship in March and marked his first appearance for the Selecao with a goal.

He scored from one of his two shots on target and also played a joint-high three key passes, which was matched by Fernandes despite the midfielder only playing 30 minutes.

Asked what he made of Otavio's display, Santos said: "He was part of the group of players that did well for 30 minutes."

Portugal switch focus back to their World Cup qualifying Group A campaign with a trip to Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

Otavio marked his senior international debut with a goal as Portugal beat nine-man Qatar 3-1 in Saturday's international friendly at the Nagyerdei Stadium in Hungary.

Portugal made 11 changes on the back of their dramatic 2-1 win over Republic of Ireland on Wednesday and initially looked disjointed in the opening quarter of the contest.

But quickfire headers from Andre Silva and Otavio put Portugal in control before half-time, at which point Qatar were a player light following Meshaal Barsham's dismissal. 

Without talismanic skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Santos' side were given a scare when Abdelkarim Hassan pulled one back, though Boualem Khoukhi was next to be sent off and Bruno Fernandes made certain of the win with a late penalty.

Qatar lost 4-0 to Serbia on Wednesday but made a bright start to their latest friendly and nearly took the lead when Almoez Ali sent an angled shot crashing against the post.

Abdulaziz Hatim then called Anthony Lopes into action, but Santos' men took the lead through their first attempt as Silva headed in Joao Mario's cross from six yards.

Otavio's maiden goal followed just 84 seconds later, the Porto attacker climbing highest to guide Goncalo Guedes' centre away from Barsham.

Qatar's hopes of finding a route back into the game were dented when, following a lengthy VAR review, Barsham was issued a red card for catching Guedes outside the box.

However, shortly after Joao Mario skied a glorious chance over the bar from close range, the 2022 World Cup hosts had one back through unmarked Hassan's header.

Felix Sanchez's side could not build on that goal, though, and Fernandes converted from 12 yards after fellow substitute Diogo Jota was fouled by Tarek Salman inside the box, a decision that led to Khoukhi being dismissed for his protests. 

Gyasi Zardes netted an 86th-minute winner to send the United States into their 13th Gold Cup final after a 1-0 semi-final triumph over Qatar in Austin on Thursday.

It could have been an entirely different story but Hassan Al Heidos missed a 61st-minute penalty for the Asian champions.

US head coach Gregg Berhalter brought on Zardes along with Nicolas Gioacchini in the second half to devastating effect, with the pair combining for the winner.

Gioacchini burst into the box and beat a man, before a side-foot pass which found Zardes to hammer home from close range.

US will play either Mexico or Canada in Sunday's final, as they chase their seventh Gold Cup title.

Qatar's Hashim Ali lashed a seventh-minute chance wide, before the US were denied by goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham's double save from Schalke talent Matthew Hoppe's effort and Paul Arriola's rebound.

US keeper Matt Turner produced a stunning finger-tip save to thwart Abdulaziz Hatem's 21st-minute volley.

Barsham was alert again in the 52nd minute, getting out quickly to deny Daryl Dike's low shot.

Qatar won a penalty on the hour mark after a VAR review on James Sands' tackle but Al Heidos skied his effort over the bar.

Berhalter brought on Zardes for Dike in the 63rd minute, along with Gioacchini for Hoppe in the 81st minute, reinvigorating the US attack and the pair made the decisive contribution late.

After making their Concacaf Gold Cup return and debut respectively, Grenada and Qatar face off for the first time as Group D action resumes on Saturday night at BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Panama came from behind three times to draw with Qatar, while Honduras swept aside Grenada 4-0 in their opening CONCACAF Gold Cup matches on Tuesday.

In a tight game in Houston, six goals were scored in the second half as 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar hit the lead three times but failed to capitalise.

Panama's Rolando Blackburn levelled the game twice in a flurry of goals in the first 20 minutes after half-time, as Hassan Al Heidos put Qatar up 3-2 from the spot in the 63rd minute. Eric Davis equalised with a 79th-minute penalty.

Honduras dominated Grenada in the later game, with goals from Jerry Bengtson, Edwin Solano, Johnny Leveron and Romell Quioto.

Panama and Honduras will meet on Saturday in Houston after Grenada and Qatar face off at the same venue.

Australia have joined Qatar in withdrawing from the 2021 Copa America.

The Socceroos and the 2022 World Cup hosts had been scheduled to contest the tournament, due to be held in Argentina and Colombia in June and July, as invited guests of CONMEBOL.

However, the postponement of the remainder of the second round of AFC qualifying for the World Cup until June because of the COVID-19 pandemic has led both teams to pull out.

Qatar, who announced their withdrawal on Tuesday, are competing in the qualifying process to secure a place in the 2023 Asian Cup. They are top of Group E and will seal their spot if they win it.

Australia are top of Group B and on course to qualify for the Asian Cup and progress to the third round of the World Cup qualification progress.

"The Socceroos' players and staff were greatly looking forward to the unique opportunity of playing in the Copa America and it is unfortunate that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be unable to attend in 2021," Australia coach Graham Arnold said.

"On behalf of the team I thank CONMEBOL for the invitation, which would have presented our team with a fantastic opportunity to test itself against some of the world's best."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.