Northern Ireland 2-4 Portugal
2014 World Cup Qualfication
It was a night to remember for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain started and scored three goals in a 4-2 come-from-behind win against Northern Ireland in 2014 World Cup qualification. Accused of under-performing for Portugal in the past, those criticisms are quickly being forgotten. This win keeps Portugal at the top of their qualification group, ahead of Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, and Luxembourg (though they’ve played one more game).
The game started off as a relatively even affair between the two teams. Bento had named a familiar starting lineup, one that has worked for him in the past. The first goal came in the 21st minute. A corner kick was swung in by Joao Moutinho. The ball met the head of a Northern Ireland defender, who cleared the ball to the edge of the box. Bruno Alves was waiting, and promptly side-foot-volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to make the score 0-1 in Portugal’s favor. This was the first clear opportunity of the night, and the quality of play was encouraging. Vieirinha, who replaced the off-form Nani in the starting lineup, came close with a near-post shot after some impressive wing-play. Play soon fell in the favor of the hosts, who began pressing Portugal more and more. Northern Ireland was soon rewarded when an in-swinging corner kick was met by the head of Gareth McAuley. With the scores leveled, Helder Postiga very stupidly picked up a red card just before half-time because of a failure to keep his temper in check. Both the teams went into the locker room level on the scoreboard, but Northern Ireland definitely had the run of play in their favor.
The second half started in the worst possible fashion for Portugal. Another corner kick from Northern Ireland caused confusion in the Portuguese box, allowing Jaime Ward to score his first international goal. It was not the start that Portugal had been hoping for, though it came as no surprise, given the events of the first half. Portugal began to press harder and harder after the goal, with Miguel Veloso most notably coming close with a long-range bullet. The equalizer came soon after Veloso’s effort. Moutinho swung in a corner kick, which was met by the head of Cristiano Ronaldo. The header was unstoppable, and the scores were now leveled at 2-2. The momentum was starting to shift, and Portugal began pushing even more, in search of a winning goal. That search only lasted about ten minutes. Fabio Coentrao picked up the ball deep on the left side, and sent an early, looping cross into the box. Ronaldo was there to head the ball in the net, making the score 3-2 in Portugal’s favor. The Selecaao (rather Ronaldo) weren’t done just yet. Winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Ronaldo struck the ball through the wall and into the Northern Irish net to make the score 4-2, and completing his first-ever hat-trick for Portugal.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles(Nani), Vieirinha(Nelson Oliveira), Ronaldo(Ruben Amorim), Helder Postiga