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Release Date: 16/10/2012

NORTHERN Ireland produced a memorable away performance to pick up a richly deserved point from this World Cup qualifier in Portugal.

On a night that home star Cristiano Ronaldo was ordained with his 100th cap the unfancied visitors came with minutes of spoiling the party.

Even then, by holding the lead for almost 50 minutes Michael O'Neill's side put a dampener on proceedings to help themselves to an unexpected point.

Indeed, it could even be argued that there was a tinge of disappointment within the visiting ranks that an all too rare away win wasn't secured.

But, in the cold light of day, this was a huge result which will give the players - and supporters - a mighty boost going into next month's visit of Azerbaijan to Windsor Park.

It was Niall McGinn's goal in the 30th minute that dared us to dream that something really special might have emerged from the incessant rain in Porto's Estádio Do Dragão.

The former Dungannon Swifts man got on the end of an inch perfect Kyle Lafferty through ball to find himself one-on-one with Rui Patrício before showing great composure to coolly lift the ball over the advancing 'keeper.

Ronaldo almost levelled within five minutes when he got a toe to a Joao Pereira cross only for the ball to come back off the bar.

The next task for Northern Ireland was to hold the lead to the break and despite pressure from Ronaldo, Nani and Pereira they did just that.

Ronaldo might have grabbed the equaliser ten minutes into the second half with a back post header from a Miguel Veloso delivery but, thankfully, the Real Madrid man directed the ball straight at Roy Carroll.

As might have been expected the pressure steadily rose but, just as it did, so did the stubbornness of the Northern Ireland defence, superbly marshalled on the night by Jonny Evans.

There was a scare on 63 minutes when, as he attempted a clearance, Steve Davis sliced at the ball before looking on gratefully to see it land on the roof of the net.

In the end, however, Portugal did find a way through. Yes, it was inevitable but it was galling in its nature at the same time.

The pressure finally paid off with just 11 minutes remaining when an Eder cross from the left was miskicked by Nani only as far as Hélder Postiga for the former Spurs man to turn home a somewhat untidy equaliser.

Sensing victory, Portugal pressed on with Varela and Nani going close in normal time while, inside the five minutes of stoppage time, the ball darted across the face of goal before Jonny Evans did enough to snuff out the danger.

Onwards now to four back-to-back home qualifiers beginning with the Azeris on November 14th.

What a difference there is going into that game on the back of tonight's result compared with the despondency felt following that draw with Luxembourg last month.

Northern Ireland: Carroll, Hughes, Baird, J. Evans, Cathcart, McGivern, Davis, McGinn, C. Evans, Norwood, K. Lafferty subs Mannus (not used), Healy (not used), D. Lafferty (not used), Shiels (not used), Carson (not used), Hodson (not used), McGovern (not used), McCourt (not used), Grigg (not used), McArdle (not used)

Elsewhere in Group F this evening Russia defeated Azerbaijan by a single goal in Moscow while Israel hit three without reply past visitors Luxembourg.


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  • Portugal v. Northern Ireland, 16th October 2012

    Niall McGinn celebrates his goal

    Picture: William Cherry/

  • Portugal v. Northern Ireland, 16th October 2012

    Niall McGinn opens the scoring against Portugal in the World Cup Qualifier at the Dragao Stadium, Porto.

    Picture: William Cherry/

  • Portugal v. Northern Ireland, 16th October 2012

    Ryan McGivern takes on Ruben Amorim

    Picture: Brian Little/

  • Portugal v. Northern Ireland, 16th October 2012

    Kyle Lafferty with Ruben Micael

    Picture: Brian Little/

  • Portugal v. Northern Ireland, 16th October 2012

    How they lined up ....

    Picture: Brian Little/

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