17th of October 2012 Author: Glo Wood
Niall McGinn gave the Northern Ireland the lead when he chipped the ball over goalkeeper Rui Patricio. The Portuguese dominated the game but Northern Ireland displayed heroic defending until Helder Postiga fired home the equaliser after 79 minutes. The result ranks as one of Northern Ireland's best-ever away performances.
Portugal, who are ranked third in the FIFA rankings, had several chances to level the game but Michael O'Neill's side held on to earn a well-deserved draw. Northern Ireland came into the game with a poor record of just one win in their last 18 matches and two victories in their last 29. It seemed the game at the Dragao Stadium in Porto was going to be an easy one for the home side as Portugal boasted six points from their opening three qualifying fixtures. The Portuguese were keen to return to winning ways after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Russia in Moscow on Friday.
The Portuguse started the match as expected and Postiga just failed to get a touch after Miguel Lopes fired the ball into the penalty area. Cristiano Ronaldo, winning his 100th cap, fired a right-foot effort just wide moments after. But the visitors took a shock lead on the half hour when Evans played the ball forward to Lafferty, who found McGinn who chipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper for his first international goal.
At the other end, Cathcart almost scored an own-goal as the ball ricocheted off his leg on to the bar, while Joao Pereira shot wide as Portugal began to pile on the pressure. Some heroic defending saw O'Neill's side go in ahead at half-time, but Portugal came close at the start of the second half when Ruben Micael's long-range strike went just over the bar.Goalkeeper Carroll saved a Ronaldo shot before palming away a great shot from Ruben Amorim. Then Carroll twice denied Postiga, but the striker found the net 11 minutes from time when the ball fell to him in the area and he blasted the ball into the back of the net from close range.
Portugal could have snatched all three points but Carroll made yet another fine stop from Silvestre Varela. Northern Ireland have two points from their opening three fixtures and face Azerbaijan in their next qualifying game in Belfast on 14 November.
Bet365 give odds of 50/1 for Northern Ireland to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
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