Ireland's man of the match 'gutted' after last-gasp loss

John Egan and his fellow defenders were just minutes away from earning a clean sheet against Portugal

Ireland's John Egan (left) shows his disappointment after the game.
Ireland's John Egan (left) shows his disappointment after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JOHN EGAN EXPRESSED disappointment after Ireland’s frustrating 2-1 loss away to Portugal in Faro tonight.

The Sheffield United defender won RTÉ’s man-of-the-match award for his display and was nearly instrumental to a famous victory before a late Ronaldo double secured the hosts a dramatic win.

“Just honestly gutting,” he told RTÉ. “We’re all gutted inside there. To put in that performance away from home against a world-class team and one of the best ever in it, we really felt like there was something in there for us tonight. To walk away with nothing is very disappointing. Looking back on it, it felt like a really good performance. Just gutted not to get a result.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo, whose late brace saw him overtake Iran legend Ali Daei as the all-time top goalscorer in international football, the 28-year-old centre-back said: “I thought we limited him all night. He was drifting out to the left and we contained him as best we could but two chances and two goals and that’s why he had the career he has had and is regarded as one of the best players ever. It’s just disappointing that we couldn’t keep him quiet for the whole game.”

Egan had previously given Ireland the lead just before half-time with a well-executed header from a Jamie McGrath corner.

“I usually go around the back but Duffy said just get across the front this time and the ball was perfect. I managed to get a glance on it and just in front of my mum as well so it was special. Just heartbreaking that we couldn’t get a result to go with it.”

In the second half, the Cork-born player almost turned provider, as Aaron Connolly’s effort went narrowly wide after Egan headed the ball into the Brighton striker’s path.

“It was like a Niall Quinn knockdown back in the day and we caused them problems all night. Adam Idah led the line unbelievably, he is up against two world-class centre-halves and he absolutely dominated them from start to finish and we created openings on the counter.”

Egan also paid tribute to 19-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, after the youngster’s early penalty save served as a significant psychological boost for the visitors.

“He’s fantastic. Top young ‘keeper and we have Caoimhin as well who didn’t play tonight, two outstanding talents. Gavin showed how good he is tonight to save a penalty like that. It was a good penalty and unbelievable save and it gave us a platform to build on.”

Meanwhile, Portugal’s match-winner Ronaldo said: “I’m so happy. Not only because I beat the record but for the special moments that we had, two goals at the end of the goal, but I have to appreciate what the team did, believing until the end. For the supporters, I’m so glad.”

On the penalty miss, the Man United star added: “It’s part of the game. Sometimes you score, sometimes you make a mistake, but I still believed until the end of the game — I’m so glad to score and win the game.”

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In contrast with Ronaldo’s delight, Stephen Kenny cut a dejected figure afterwards, with the Ireland manager praising his side’s performance despite the unfortunate outcome.

“In the first half, I thought we were very brave in possession, we passed it really well, counter-attacked really well, everything we wanted to happen happened in terms of Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah’s pace.

“They didn’t have many chances, only one really in the first half, and I felt we were comfortable.

“The second half was harder for us. We had to suffer a bit and they had a lot of possession, but we missed some good chances on the break ourselves. But they’re a brilliant team.”

He continued: “I can’t see how they missed the chance and a free kick is given right at the end just before the goal. We’re minutes away from probably the greatest result in Ireland’s qualification history away from home. So I’m just gutted for the players. It’s absolutely heroic, how much they left out there. They’ve given everything. It’s a tough one to lose, but we can’t dwell on it.”

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