NI draw against star-studded Portugal

Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland
Published Tuesday, 16 October 2012
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Northern Ireland have secured a "huge" draw against Portugal in their World Cup qualifier, with a brave performance which earned the underdogs a deserved point in Porto on Tuesday night.

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The visitors remained in the lead for most of the qualifier and were only 10 minutes away from a landmark victory over a side who are ranked third in the world - 114 places above them in FIFA rankings.

Although Michael O'Neill's men didn't secure the win in the end, they still managed to spoil Cristiano Ronaldo's big day on home turf.

The Group F match was supposed to be all about the Real Madrid superstar, who was presented with his 100th cap in a pre-match ceremony involving Luis Figo.

The kick-off was slightly delayed as Ronaldo received the special presentation from the fellow centurion. When play got underway it took him just two minutes to register his first shot.

Portugal dominated the first half but O'Neill's men took a shock lead on the half-hour when Niall McGinn capped a fine counter-attack to score his first international goal.

Jonny Evans stood out on centre half and Roy Carroll was on top form with countless saves.

The second half was again dominated by Portugal, but Northern Ireland dealt well with everything that came their way from the home side right until the 80th minute when Helder Postiga eventually broke the team's defence for a scrappy equaliser.

Northern Ireland held on to secure the draw at the end of an outstanding and surprising match.

It's a huge result. I don't tend to get carried away and the main thing for me is that regardless of the result, I was proud to stand there tonight and be their manager.

Michael O’Neill

O'Neill said: "I'm hugely proud of the effort and what the players gave us tonight.

"I think we saw a huge amount of character in this team.

The manager praised his players for "what they gave to the cause and to each other."

"We're very disappointed only to draw but we recognised that we would have to defend for our lives and that certainly proved to be the case, especially in the second half," he said.

"Having gone that far it was a bit of a blow (to concede).

"But we got what we deserved, simple as that, and I'm immensely proud of the players. There was nothing more I could ask from first to last."

Northern Ireland recorded historic home wins over England and Spain in 2005 and 2006 - but the draw against Portugal is already seen as one of their best away performances.

The result means Northern Ireland now have two points from their first three matches in Group F, including two challenging away trips.

Last month they were held at home by Luxembourg on the back of their defeat to Russia in Moscow.

They face Azerbaijan at Windsor Park next month.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
sean in donegal wrote (546 days ago):
William,only getting a chance now to reply.My reasons for not supporting N.Irl,firstly they play GSTQ as the national anthem.I dont recognise that.As an Ulster man that anthem is not for me.Danny Boy would certainly make a difference to many people.I have known at least 2 players who played for NI and they told me how they were treated because they were Catholics.Their stories are incredible(admittedly they were well received by many).I have no problem supporting a 32 county team with players from north and south involved. Its about time we all moved forward and what better way to try than with sport.
jackie in belfast wrote (549 days ago):
@Ryan you say you support an English team that plays in Manchester,why then would it be so difficult for you to get behind the lads from your own country ? Yep it,s all about politics with you,isn,t it ?
william in coleraine wrote (550 days ago):
@ryan. well considering they are your national team you should support them! thats like a spaniard supporting portugal or whatever! i dont mind supporting the roi when they make a major tournament and hope they do well when they do occasionally qualify (despite the shameless poaching of our players)and in mixed areas and intergrated schools protestants play gaa despite the gaa's reputation..
Ryan in Belfast wrote (551 days ago):
@william in coleraine: William, Peter robinson attended a GAA gaelic game, would you say that the DUP now want Unionists to support the GAA? Lets face reality here, both DUP and SF attended those games to show a peaceful and respect attitude to each others culture/heritage. And i know a few protestants who support the ROI team but i wont delude myself into thinking most protesants support the ROI squad. William, im NOT against the NI Team, i just dont support them, the same way i support Man Utd but that doesnt mean im against Liverpool or Chelsea. @ Jackie: Jackie, im not even from west belfast and i've been to many countries and even lived in England for a time.
william in coleraine wrote (551 days ago):
@ryan catholics from intergrated communities in northern ireland support northern ireland rightly. the biggest supporter of northern ireland i know is a catholic to be honest.sinn fein ministers have encouraged catholics to support northern ireland by attending a n.i match have they not? is that not an endorsement for the gawa?@ sean you said you would like to support a 32 county team? you obviously dont support the full 32 counties if you said you could never support n.i. these people the people from northern ireland that dont support n.i dont purely for political reasons they probably dont even like sport!
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