Portugalfailed to take advantage of their game in hand over Serbia in Group A of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers as Cristiano Ronaldo was shut out by an inspired Ireland side in a 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday night.
Despite all the criticism of Stephen Kennyand his team during this qualification campaign, Ireland drew energy from an electric crowd in Dublin in order to keep a much more talented Portugal team at bay.
Portugal‘s point put them back to the top of the group, ahead of Serbia, albeit the two teams are level on points heading into the final stages of qualifying.
Cristiano Ronaldo left frustrated
Many expected Ronaldo and Portugal to run riot against Ireland, but that was not to be the case with the visitors only having one shot on goal, compared to the two had by the Irish team.
Gavin Bazunu was forced to make an outstanding save to thwart Andre Silva in the 14th minute, with the RB Leipzig forward aiming for the far-left corner, but merely firing the ball into the hands of the Irish stopper.
Portugal failed to make the most of their early possession, although they had a penalty claim turned down on the half-hour, which the referee simply ignored.
Ireland grew into the game, taking confidence from all of Portugal‘s wasted possession, and it wasn’t long before they had chances of their own through Callum Robinson and John Egan.
Robinson fired a cross into the penalty area, finding a dangerous area, only for a Portuguese defender to scramble the effort clear.
Whereas Egan had a glaring chance fall to him just yards away from goal, however the defender could only mistime his jump and head the ball clean over the crossbar.
Portugal’s best chance
The 67th minute saw the first moment of Ronaldo brilliance as the Manchester United talisman rose high above all Ireland’s defenders inside the penalty area, although his header was surprisingly wayward.
Portugal appeared to have run empty on ideas as the match entered the final 10 minutes, and their task was made harder when Pepe was sent off after being shown a second yellow card, even though the defender hadn’t remembered he was walking the disciplinary tightrope.
Five minutes of added time were a chance for Ireland to make the most of their man-advantage and claim a famous home victory, yet in what was a match of even chances, the hosts couldn’t find the magic pass to unlock the rear-guard defensive action of Fernando Santos‘ charges.
The ball did go in the net via Matt Doherty, but it was immediately ruled out for a foul by Will Keane in the build-up.