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September 6, 2013
• Windsor Park, Belfast
Referee: D. Makkelie
• Attendance: 13629
G. McAuley 36'
J. Ward 52'
Bruno Alves 21'
Cristiano Ronaldo 68', 77', 83'
And that's not to mention the three red cards and umpteen other bookings! As Ronaldo goes to collect his match ball however, I must head off too. Thanks for joining me Harry Slavin tonight and until next time, goodbye!
FULL-TIME NORTHERN IRELAND 2-4 PORTUGAL. So close yet so far. Michael O'Neill's side looked in the drivers seat at the break but a lesson in finishing from Ronaldo sees Windsor Park silenced as the visitors claim victory.
90' + 3'
Nelson Oliviera goes down in the area a little too easily for Roy Carroll's liking. Nani dances into the box and finds Ruben Amorim but his shot is deflected wide.
90' + 1'
Into four minutes of stoppage time we go then. It's been a cracker but the excitement has been culled by the finishing abilities of that man Crisitiano.
Off comes Ronaldo to rapturous applause from the handful of Portuguese fans around the ground. Even the Northern Ireland fans join in reluctantly in saluting a sensational second-half display. Ruben Amorim is on in his place.
It's a bit of an anti-climax given the position of the hosts at half-time. They were in a fantastic position at the break but they struggled with being in the unprecedented position of being ahead.. Brunt's red card probably didn't help either.
It's damage limitation now for the nine men of Northern Ireland. The tempo has gone out of the game completely as Portugal look to see out the final five.
Goal C. Ronaldo
GOOOAAALLL!!! HAT-TRICK RONALDO!!! Pepe creates a gap in the wall and his Real Madrid teammate finds it, the ball nicking off the inside of the wall and flying past Carroll. That should wrap things up for Paulo Bento's side.
Yellow Card Oliver Norwood
Norwood brings down Nelson Oliviera on the edge of the area. Ronaldo is on a hat-trick and he wants this to himself.
Red Card Kyle Lafferty
RED FOR LAFFERTY! That is stupid lunge from Kyle Lafferty who was never going to get the ball. He ends up catching Pereira very, very late, and is rightly sent off.
The energy has been sapped from the crowd here with that goal. Can Northern Ireland find any response?
Assist Fabio Coentrao
Goal C. Ronaldo
GOOOAAALLL!!! RONALDO AT THE DOUBLE!!! You cannot give this man that much space. Ronaldo is left unmarked by the Northern Ireland back line and he rises to nod Fabio Coentrao's cross beyond a hapless Carroll.
Nani lets fly with a nasty effort the dips and dives in front of Carroll but the Olympiakos keeper does well to keep it out and gather at the second attempt.
This has been a classic and we are all set up for a big finish. Who is going to step for either side?
Michael O'Neill is looking to bring up the drawbridge at fortress Windsor as he brings off forward Ward and brings on Corry Evans to sure up the midfield.
Another important tackle as Ronaldo threatens to strike from just outside the area, his former teammate Evans throwing himself in the way.
Assist Joao Moutinho
Goal C. Ronaldo
GOOAAALLL!!! RONALDO LEVELS!! Moutinho swings in a corner and the Real Madrid forward steals a yard on Kyle Lafferty and plants his header firmly beyond Carroll. Portugal back on terms.
Great save from Carroll again as he gets a strong hand up to divert Miguel Veloso's fierce shot. Corner for Portugal.
It has gone deadly quiet around the ground after that red card. You would imagine that all the excitement will mae way for nerves in these last 30 minutes.
Yellow Card Roy Carroll
Carroll comes racing out of his goal after the ref brandishes his red card and the former Manchester United keeper is booked for kicking the ball away. Now it's Northern Ireland's turn to lose their heads.
Yellow/Red Chris Brunt
RED CARD FOR BRUNT!!! The game is back in the balance as the West Brom midfielder sees red for a second bookable offence. It was needless, and he knows it, cutting a devastated figure as he leaves the pitch.
Yellow Card Fabio Coentrao
Chris Brunt takes it. He beats the wall but it's fairly central and Rui Patricio holds onto the ball despite the wet conditions.
Northern Ireland aren't sitting back on this lead! Bruno Alves has difficulty dealing with a long ball from the Northern Ireland back line. He ends up handling the ball and gifting the home side a free kick in a very promising position.
Paulo Bento feels the need to switch things up and he hooks off Raul Meireles and brings on Nani. Can Portugal salvage anything from here?
Assist Jonny Evans
Goal Jamie Ward
GOOOAALLL!!! JAMIE WARD PUTS NORTHERN IRELAND AHEAD!!! He is a good yard offside, but the home fans don't care. Ferguson whips in another devilish delivery and Jonny Evans flicks on at the near post. Ward comes from an offside position to get in front of Rui Patricio and hooks the ball into the net. Queue pandemonium in the stands!
Another corner for Northern Ireland as Norwood's cross is deflected by Pepe.
Coentrao is played in behind the back line by Meireles but his low ball across goal is hacked away by Jonny Evans who is there again to clear the danger.
Gareth McAuley's confidence has gone up a notch or ten. The big central defender finds himself with the ball at his feet 30-yards from goal and he attempts an audacious lob. It's not actually as bad an effort as you would think, but Rui Patricio had it covered all the way.
Jamie Ward tries to burst into the area but takes a tumble. Bruno Alves clears behind and Conetrao is not happy as he feels Ward was looking for a penalty.
We kick-off then as the PA system blares out we will rock you. Portugal have already been rocked. Now it's time to see if Northern Ireland can complete a miraculous turnaround.
The teams are back out for the second half. Ronaldo is having a word with the referee at the break as we get news of Pinto on the Portugal coaching staff being sent off as well! Can they hold their nerve in the second period?
You have to wonder how this situation changes the mindset of those in the home dressing room at the moment. They came into this fixture as firm underdogs, but given the situation at the break, you'd have to consider them favourites now.
I mentioned that Northern Ireland have an impressive list of scalps and they have a real opportunity to add Portugal to that throng this evening. Ronaldo looked less than impressed as he went off the field, he and his teammates have it all to do in this second period
NORTHERN IRELAND 1-1 PORTUGAL. What a half! Windsor Park was silenced by Alves' volley but the game has been turned on its head, first by Gareth McAuley's fine header to equalize, and then Helder Postiga's needless sending off.
45' + 1'
Rui Patricio comes out and flaps at the ball once again but his defence get him off the hook. That will do it for a frantic first forty-five. I'm not sure I could've taken much more!
Incredible end to the half! And it could get better for the home side as Shane Ferguson prepares to swing in a free kick.
Yellow Card C. Ronaldo
Red Card Hélder Postiga
POSTIGA SEES RED!!! Portugal just cannot cope with the red hot reception they're receiving in Belfast and Postiga is off after going head to head with McAuley. Ronaldo is booked as well for his protestation. A big boos for Northern Ireland!
Helder Postiga has two chances in a minute. The first is a tame effort that trickles wide. The second though is a real test for Carroll as he produces a really smart stop to keep out the Valencia forward.
Jonny Evans clearing header is met with a huge roar! The fans are back on side with the home team now.
Yellow Card Chris Brunt
Chris Brunt is the latest player in the book as he takes down Ronaldo in full flight. Free kick in a wide position for Portugal.
One shot, one goal for the hosts and Windsor Park has found it's voice again. Can the hosts build up momentum here for another famous victory?
Assist Shane Ferguson
Goal Gareth McAuley
GOOAAALLL!!! MCAULEY BRINGS NORTHERN IRELAND LEVEL!!! Fortress Windsor is back in business! The first corner sees Rui Patricio flap unconvincingly at the cross. Shane Ferguson swings in the second and McAuley times his run to perfection to get across his man and nod home, Coentrao unable to stop the header on the line.
Oliver Norwood pinches Portugal's pocket on the right once again and his cross has to be knocked behind for a Northern Ireland corner.
Yellow Card Steven Davis
I'm at a loss to explain why the booking has been shown to the Southampton man, but he's been booked for receiving an elbow in the face! A little bit harsh shall we say.
Lee Hodson catches Coentrao on the ball deep in his own half and drives into the box. He tries to pick out Ward who is steaming in at the back post but the cross is intercepted and cleared. Portugal still looking ropey at the back.
Big tackle from Gareth McAuley! The ball breaks kindly for Vierinha in the area and he plays a cute pass back into the path of Raul Meireles but he is bested by the West Bromwich Albion defender who gets rid of the danger.
Well that isn't something you see in every professional football game! Joao Pereira is penalised for a foul throw. Slightly embarrassing for the Valencia man.
Portugal are looking slightly calmer now after their traumatic opening 20 minutes. Michael O'Neill's men have had the wind taken out of them by that Alves strike. They need to start pressing again, and soon.
Chance! Northern Ireland clear the corner initially but Vierinha has the ball back and quickly works a shooting opportunity, forcing Carroll to get down quickly and produce a smart stop at his near post.
Again Portugal look to that long diagonal ball and Hodson is forced to nod the ball out to stop Ronaldo from picking up the ball in a dangerous position.
Pepe is on the receiving end of a poor tackle this time but he makes a bit of a meal of it. He has the free kick but nothing more.
Goal Bruno Alves
GOOOAAALLL!!! ALVES FROM THE CORNER!!! But it's not a towering header. Joao Moutinho's corner is headed to the edge of the area where the centre back is loitering with intent. He takes the shot on the volley with his instep guiding the ball into the corner past an unsighted Carroll. Very tidy finish and the visitors silence the Windsor roar.
Vierinha finds a little bit of space in behind the Northern Ireland back line and forces a corner as his cut back is forced behind for a corner.
The Northern Ireland fans are attempting to taunt Ronaldo with a chant of there's only one Gareth Bale. I know, me neither.
Bruno Alves! The big centre-back is up for a free kick and he gets across his marker to flick a header goalwards. It flies just wide of Roy Carroll's near post, who is less than impressed by his side's defending.
Beautiful skill from Ronaldo! The no.7 turns Niall McGinn inside out, including a flick through the former Tottenham man's legs, before rounding things off with a no-look backheel. Just because he can.
Chris Brunt swings in a decent free kick but McAuley is penalised for going up with Ru Patricio and Paulo Bento's side can calm things down a little.
A bit of penalty-box pinball from the resulting corner but it's eventually cleared by Bruno Alves after Ronaldo gets no distance on his initial header.
Jamie Ward is almost in behind the Portugal back four! It looks as though Fabio Coentrao is playing the forward onside but his blushes are spared as Pepe gets back to knock the ball behind just as Ward looks to pull the trigger.
Yellow Card Pepe
Some ferocious closing down work in the midfield has Portugal rattled! Pepe has to give away a throw and a few dodgy touches in the area from the Portuguese defence allows the crowd to turn it up another notch. Everyone in a green shirt seems up for this!
Shane Ferguson picks up the ball on the left after some tenacious work from Paterson, but the Birmingham City player's cross is blocked by Bruno Alves.
Early shot from Raul Meireles but it's blocked in the box by Johnny Evans. Twice early on though Portugal have caught out Northern Ireland with a long diagonal ball inside the opening minutes. A weak spot identified by Bento perhaps?
Portugal get us going here at a deafening Windsor Park. Cracking noise coming from all four sides of the ground.
The anthems have been belted out, the fairplay speeches made by the captains - although Ronaldo did have a problem with his microphone. In any case we are ready for the off here!
A very strong Portugal team sent out by Paulo Bento tonight. A slighty different task is being asked of young Lee Hodson tonight as the MK Dons defender takes a break from League One duty to take care of Cristiano Ronaldo on the right tonight. No problems there then!
PORTUGAL: (4-3-3) Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles; Ronaldo, Postiga, Vieirinha.
NORTHERN IRELAND: (4-4-2) Carroll; Hodson, McAuley, J Evans, Ferguson; McGinn, Norwood, Davis, Brunt; Ward, Paterson.
We are T minus ten minutes to lift off here - and with these Northern Ireland fans there is a good chance of the ground literally lifting off tonight - so let's get some starting line ups ahead of kick off.
It's seven years to the day when David Healy netted a memorable hat-trick against Spain to beat the European Champions in waiting 3-2. England, Sweden and more recently Russia have been humbled at Fortress Windsor. Will Cristiano Ronaldo & Co be able to evade the same fate?
Windsor Park has played host to some of the most miraculous giant killings ever seen on British soil. Tonight Northern Ireland will look to add the scalp of Portugal. I'm Harry Slavin and I will be bringing you all the action from Belfast.
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