Lionel Messi scored his 800th career goal as Argentina secured a win over Panama in their first match – a friendly – since winning the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Harry Kane became England’s highest scorer after netting in the Three Lions’ match against Italy in the Euro 2024 qualifier, while Cristiano Ronaldo set the record for most international caps among men footballers.
In tennis, recently crowned Indian Wells Masters champion Elena Rybakina battled to get through to round three and remain in contention for winning the ‘Sunshine Double.’
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 24 March, 2023:
Messi scores 800th goal
Lionel Messi capped a night of unbridled joy with the 800th goal of his career as world champions Argentina celebrated their homecoming with a 2-0 friendly victory over stubborn Panama in Buenos Aires on Thursday.
The 35-year-old seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s stunning free-kick in the dying minutes came after 21-year-old MLS sensation Thiago Almada gave a glimpse of what the future holds with his first goal for the national team in only his third appearance.
It was an emotional night as fireworks crackled overhead before kick-off at the impressive Monumental Stadium where the 83,000 lucky fans that managed to get tickets among the more than 1.5 million people who tried, created an electric atmosphere.
Messi, coach Lionel Scaloni and numerous players came onto the pitch with their children and several seemed on the brink of tears as fans in unison sung “Muchachos”, the anthem of Argentina’s victorious World Cup campaign in Qatar.
After the match the party continued, with every member of the World Cup winning squad given a replica trophy to lift, surrounded by their families.
Messi had a hand in the opening goal, crashing a free-kick off the woodwork, with Almada, a second half substitute, following up to slot home.
With a minute to go, Messi was given yet another free-kick within shooting range – his fifth of the match – and this time he curled it into the top corner to seal the dream scenario for his delirious fans.
Kane, Ronaldo set records
Harry Kane became England’s all-time leading goalscorer as the Three Lions enjoyed a perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying by winning 2-1 away to Italy on Thursday, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice on his record 197th cap in Portugal’s 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.
Kane netted his 54th goal for England in his 81st international appearance from the penalty spot in Naples after Declan Rice had fired the visitors into an early lead.
The England captain moves clear of the record mark he had shared with Wayne Rooney.
Gareth Southgate’s men gained some measure of revenge for their defeat by the Azzurri in the Euro 2020 final.
In the other game in Group C, North Macedonia beat Malta 2-1.
In Lisbon, Ronaldo marked Roberto Martinez’s bow as Portugal boss with another historic night.
The 38-year-old, who was dropped from the Portuguese starting XI during the World Cup, set a new record for men’s international appearances by passing the previous mark of 196 caps held by Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa.
In the same group, Rade Krunic scored twice as Bosnia and Herzegovina swept aside Iceland 3-0.
But Slovakia, who have qualified for the last two Euros, were held 0-0 at home by Luxembourg.
Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark bounced back from their disappointing early exit at the World Cup to beat Finland 3-1 in Copenhagen.
Atalanta forward Rasmus Hojlund scored a hat-trick for the Danes on his first start for his country.
Elsewhere in Group H, Dion Charles scored twice as Northern Ireland won 2-0 in San Marino, while Slovenia came from behind to win 2-1 away to Kazakhstan.
Results in Euro 2024 qualifying on Thursday:
Italy 1 (Retegui 56) England 2 (Rice 13, Kane 44-pen)
North Macedonia 2 (Elmas 66, Churlinov 72) Malta 1 (Yankam 86)
Kazakhstan 1 (Samorodov 24) Slovenia 2 (Brekalo 47, Vipotnik 78)
Denmark 3 (Hojlund 21, 82, 90+3) Finland 1 (Antman 53)
San Marino 0 Northern Ireland 2 (D. Charles 24, 55)
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3 (Krunic 14, 40, Dedic 63) Iceland 0
Portugal 4 (Joao Cancelo 8, Bernardo Silva 47, Ronaldo 51-pen, 63) Liechtenstein 0
Slovakia 0 Luxembourg 0
Rybakina, Pegula through to third round
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina survived a spirited comeback from Russian Anna Kalinskaya at the Miami Open on Thursday, progressing to the third round with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win.
Americans Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff advanced with less complication enjoying straight sets wins at Hard Rock Stadium.
Rybakina is aiming for the ‘Sunshine Double’ after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Indian Wells final last week and she came into the match on the back of wins in each of the last eight games she has started.
Spain’s Badosa battled to a 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-3 win over Germany’s Laura Siegemund while Russian Anastasia Potapova defeated Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk 6-1, 6-3. Potapova will face Gauff next.
Three-times Miami Open winner Victoria Azarenka beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-1 to book her place in the third round.
In first-round ATP action, big-hitting Czech Jiri Lehecka cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine Federico Coria.
Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego ended a run of six straight defeats at Masters 1000 level by defeating Austrian former world number three Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7), 6-2.
Chile’s Cristian Garin beat American Marcos Giron 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and will face Argentine Sebastian Baez next.
France’s Richard Gasquet beat Australian lucky loser Christopher O’Connell 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to set-up a meeting with second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
World No 1 Carlos Alcaraz starts his campaign on Friday against Argentine Facundo Bagnis.
Results from ATP/WTA Miami Open on Thursday (x denotes seed):
Men’s singles first round
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) bt Zizou Bergs (BEL) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) bt Shang Juncheng (CHN) 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
Christopher Eubanks (USA) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 7-6 (7/2), 6-2
Gregoire Barrere (FRA) bt Roman Safiullin (RUS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Quentin Halys (FRA) bt Pedro Martínez (ESP) 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Mackenzie McDonald (USA) bt Daniel Galán (COL) 6-4, 6-2
Alex Molcan (SVK) bt Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) bt Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-0, 3-0 abandon
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) bt Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-4, 7-6 (8/6)
Aleksandar Kovacevic (USA) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-1
Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 7-6 (9/7), 6-2
Yosuke Watanuki (JPN) bt Benoît Paire (FRA) 6-4, 7-5
Tomás Etcheverry (ARG) bt Pavel Kotov (RUS) 6-2, 6-2
Jirí Lehecka (CZE) bt Federico Coria (ARG) 6-3, 6-4
Christian Garín (CHI) bt Marcos Giron (USA) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
Women’s singles second round
Claire Liu (USA) bt Julia Grabher (AUT) 6-4, 6-3
Martina Trevisan (ITA x25) bt Nao Hibino (JPN) 6-4, 6-3
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x24) bt Mirjam Björklund (SWE) 6-3, 6-4
Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA x13) bt Tereza Martincova (CZE) 7-6 (7/4), 0-6, 6-0
Elena Rybakina (KAZ x10) bt Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP x21) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-2
Petra Martic (CRO x29) bt Wang Xiyu (CHN) 6-3, 6-3
Elise Mertens (BEL) bt Daria Kasatkina (RUS x8) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2
Jessica Pegula (USA x3) bt Katherine Sebov (CAN) 6-3, 6-1
Danielle Collins (USA x30) bt Viktoriya Tomova (BUL) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Magda Linette (POL x20) bt Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x14) bt Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-3, 6-1
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS x12) bt Viktorija Golubic (SUI) 6-1, 6-1
Zheng Qinwen (CHN x23) bt Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) 2-6, 6-1, 6-1
Anastasia Potapova (RUS x27) bt Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-1, 6-3
Cori Gauff (USA x6) bt Rebecca Marino (CAN) 6-4, 6-3
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day