Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland
The Portugal National team failed to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Russia, as they could only muster a boring draw against Northern Ireland. The team dropped further points, and now sit in third in the group, behind Russia and Israel, who is level on points but is second by virtue of goal difference. Portugal has a nasty habit of playing to their opponent’s level. During last summer’s European championship, Portugal was one of the few teams who could play Spain well. Along the way, they held their own with Germany, and defeated Denmark and Holland. Yet somehow, this team cannot even muster a win against lowly Northern Ireland.
Much of the pre-match buzz was over Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain was to win his 100th cap for the Seleccao, and a gala ensued before the match. Consequently, much of the attention was on Ronaldo to make magic happen, and the winger recorded the team’s first shot soon after the starting whistle. The play from Portugal was lethargic in nature, and the team were punished on the half-hour mark by what was becoming a more and more resilient Northern Ireland side. The Irish struck on a counterattack. Lafferty found the onrushing McGinn, who poked the ball over Rui Patricio to give the Northern Irish the lead. Pepe and Joao Pereira were both grossly out of position in the play leading up to the goal. Try as they might, Portugal simply could not find the deadlock. The Seleccao was playing with uncharacteristically low cohesion, which is usually the team’s strong-suits. Portugal went into the half knowing that they needed to improve their performance in the second half.
Portugal came out in the second half and immediately improved the quality of their play. The team peppered the Northern Irish goal with shot after shot, but still could not find that all-important goal. That goal duly arrived in the 80th minute. Bruno Alves sent in an arching cross, which Eder expertly headed down into the path of Helder Postiga, who swiveled and shot into the bottom corner. Postiga had not been enjoying a good night up until that point, but that goal sent the fans into raptures. No matter how hard Portugal tried, they could not beat the resolve of the Northern Ireland defense, who held firm, as the game ended at 1-1.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira(Eder), Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Lopes(Ruben Amorim), Miguel Veloso, Ruben Micael(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani, Helder Postiga