PORTUGAL 1 NORTHERN IRELAND 1
Northern Ireland were 10 minutes away last night from a famous victory over a Portugal side 114 places above them in the FIFA rankings, but still managed to spoil Cristiano Ronaldo’s big day with a battling point in Porto.
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, but Michael O’Neill’s men took a shock lead on the half-hour when Niall McGinn capped a fine counter-attack.
Ronaldo, and his illustrious team-mates, dominated possession and chances both before and after that but had to wait until the 80th minute for Helder Postiga to turn home a scrappy equaliser.
A point will be celebrated by a Northern Ireland side who were held at home by lowly Luxembourg last time out, but their bravery in the face of an attacking onslaught from Ronaldo and company so nearly yielded even more.
O’Neill sent out a compact 4-5-1 formation, resisting the temptation to start with Dean Shiels as a link between midfield and attack.
PORTUGAL: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Veloso, Ronaldo, Moutinho, Micael (Varela, 61), Nani, Lopes (Amorim, 46), Pereira (Eder, 74), Postiga.
Subs not used: Eduardo, Beto, Nelson, Cistodio, Pizzi, Nelson Oliveira, Sereno, Luis Neto, Eder.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Carroll, Cathcart, Evans, Hughes, McGivern, Baird, Davis, C Evans, McGinn, Norwood, Lafferty.
Subs not used: Mannus, McGovern, Hodson, Shiels, McCourt, Lafferty, Grigg, Carson, McArdle.
Referee: Thorsten Kinhoefer (GER)