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Portugal 2-1 Ireland

Hello, and welcome to tonight’s liveblog.

Ireland’s World Cup qualification prospects were looking fairly bleak after their first two games, amid losses to Serbia and Luxembourg.

However, avoiding defeat tonight against a star-studded Portugal team would be a considerable morale boost and go some way towards changing the mood music around this Irish team.

With Portugal and Serbia already seven points ahead of them, albeit with an extra game played, you would think Stephen Kenny’s side need at least a point this evening to maintain their already slim hopes of progression to Qatar next year.

There are home games against Azerbaijan and Serbia to come, but tonight is undoubtedly the toughest of the three fixtures in this international window.

With Kenny seeking a contract extension and the Irish footballing public not having had much to cheer for a couple of years now, at the very least, a positive performance is needed to assuage the team’s detractors.

It won’t be easy against a team who, on a good day, are up there with the best international sides in the world.

And with Cristiano Ronaldo needing just one more goal to break Ali Daei’s goalscoring record, Man United’s new superstar signing will likely be as determined as ever to find the net.

Confirmation of Ireland’s starting XI, with St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath handed a surprise start…

The FAI have also confirmed that Shane Long misses out tonight after testing positive for Covid-19.

Confirmation of Portugal’s starting XI…

Some pre-match reading for you…

Stephen Kenny tells RTÉ that Portugal have picked a “very attacking team” but Ireland are “well set up” to deal with them.

He also confirms Matt Doherty will start at left wing-back. 

On Jamie McGrath, he mentions his 17 goals for St Mirren last season and adds that “tactically he gives us something different”.

Decent start for Portugal.

They’ve had a long spell of possession and have just had a Dias effort that’s deflected out for a corner.

Matt Doherty wins a free kick after being fouled by Bernardo Silva.

Ireland have stemmed the Portuguese attack for now.

Doherty tries to find Idah on the edge of the area but Dias makes a timely interception.

Ireland are starting to get a grip of the ball now, which will be encouraging for Kenny.

Ireland try to play it out from the back but ultimately give it back to the Portuguese.

More than one Irish player looked uncomfortable during that nervy moment as they refrained from hitting it long.

PENALTY FOR PORTUGAL!

The referee is now checking VAR…

The penalty has been awarded after a long consultation with VAR.

BAZUNU SAVES RONALDO’S PENALTY!

That’s incredible.

Ireland were punished for playing out from the back initially, leading Hendrick to make a last-ditch challenge on Fernandes that was deemed a foul.

Then, Ronaldo gave a dig to Dara O’Shea as the defender messed with the ball on the penalty spot. The Irishman made the most of it, holding his face, and the referee ignored the incident.

Then Bazunu got down really well to his right to save Ronaldo’s penalty.

Momentarily, it looked like the referee was going to ask for a re-take, but then pointed for a throw.

What a dramatic opening 20 minutes this has been!

Nervy moment for Pepe.

He gives the ball away cheaply on the edge of the box, but then does well to win it back off Connolly.

McGrath’s corner looks dangerous, but Duffy miskicks, before Connolly blazes an attempt well over.

Ireland have been true to Kenny’s pre-match comments and have not been afraid to attack when given the opportunity.

Another decent counter-attack from Ireland, with good work from Idah and Connolly, but it eventually fizzles out.

Moments later, Jota goes very close with a header that comes back off the post from Cancelo’s cross.

It’s been an entertaining, fast-paced first half.

O’Shea is down with what looks like a bad ankle injury as he attempts to make a tackle.

Judging by his reaction, he will likely have to come off.

Portugal have had 62% of the possession according to RTÉ.

They haven’t been as dominant as that stat suggests though.

A cross is only half-cleared by Egan, but Fernandes’ attempt from the edge of the area goes well over.

Ireland are forced to make a change — Dara O’Shea is unable to continue, so Norwich’s Andrew Omobamidele comes on for his debut.

Ireland have just put together a decent string of passes.

They’ve been disappointing in the final third though, as they haven’t tested Rui Patricio at all.

And as I type, there’s more good build-up play, but Connolly’s shot from distance goes well over.

Cullen plays through Connolly.

The Brighton youngster goes through on goal, but can’t beat Rui Patricio from a tight angle.

More good play from Ireland.

Incredibly, Ireland are in front.

McGrath’s corner is met by Egan, and the Sheffield United man’s outstanding header leaves Patricio with no chance.

Very nervy moment for Ireland.

Jota finds himself in the area and his shot is initially spilled by Bazunu before the goalkeeper gathers it at the second attempt.

Moments later, Jota beats the offside trap, but his attempt goes just wide.

You get the sense Portugal have stepped up a gear.

So what an opening period that was.

Ireland have had a few nervy moments, most notably conceding a penalty that Gavin Bazunu saved brilliantly from Ronaldo.

Yet Kenny’s side have not been afraid to attack. Connolly has had a few half chances, while their bravery was rewarded on the brink of half-time with Egan’s goal.

It’s a very inexperienced Irish team, but the likes of Bazunu, Jamie McGrath and Josh Cullen have risen to the occasion.

The visitors have not looked convincing playing out from the back, while they haven’t been clinical enough in the final third, and Portugal showed signs they were stepping up a gear towards the end of the half.

Overall though, it has been a hugely encouraging first half — undoubtedly the best of the Kenny era so far.

A look at the Egan goal…

The second half has begun…

Guerreiro’s goal-bound shot from the edge of the area is blocked by the head of Shane Duffy.

The Brighton man’s recent rejuvenation has continued tonight, as he’s looked excellent at the back.

Portugal have definitely upped the tempo in this second half.

As I type though, Connolly goes down under the challenge of Cancelo in the box amid claims for a penalty, but the ref doesn’t give it.

Brilliant effort from Fernandes.

His curled attempt goes inches wide.

Meanwhile, Doherty goes down injured and is currently receiving treatment.

Big chance for Ireland.

Idah’s cross finds the head of Egan, who lays it to Connoly, and the Brighton striker’s first-time finish goes just wide.

The Galway native appeared to be barged over as he made the shot, but the officials ignore his claims despite a VAR check.

Two changes for Portugal.

Fernandes and Guerreiro are off, while Tavares Mendes and Joao Mario are on.

Duffy does really well to clear Cancelo’s cross, before a Silva effort is gathered by Bazunu.

Ireland are hanging on here and have lost their attacking threat.

Ireland are starting to look leggy.

Idah has just lost possession with a heavy touch, and now Connolly is down after a challenge from Ronaldo.

Silva gets the ball on the edge of the area, beats a couple of players before Idah gets a crucial block to stop his goal-bound shot.

Meanwhile, Ireland make a change, with McClean on in place of Connolly who has worked really hard and started to tire clearly.

Portugal make another sub.

Moutinho is on in place of Paulinha.

Big miss!

Ronaldo’s cross goes by Doherty and falls to Silva, who blazes over from close range.

That’s a let-off for Ireland.

Jota’s cross is too high for Ronaldo amid more frustration for the hosts.

Ireland have less than 13 minutes of normal time to hold on.

A cross is only half cleared, and a bicycle kick by Silva can’t find the target.

Portugal make another change with Cancelo replaced by Guedes.

As I type, Ronaldo shoots from distance, but his effort goes well over.

Mendes finds the ball on the left and his cross goes straight out of play.

Are the home side running out of ideas?

Guedes beats McClean out wide.

His cross finds Ronaldo, who heads into the corner of the net.

Ireland have made a double change.

Idah and McGrath are replaced by Collins and Molumby.

A Mario shot from the edge of the area is deflected into the arms of a grateful Bazunu.

Egan has been named man of the match by RTÉ.

Ronaldo heads home deep into stoppage time after heavy pressure from Portugal.

That’s cruel on Ireland.

So that’s that.

Stephen Kenny and the Irish players must be absolutely heartbreakon after holding out for so long.

Ireland matched Portugal in the first half and could have even been further ahead after some good attack play.

It was a backs-to-the-wall display for much of the second period, but the visitors for so long looked set to hold on for a famous victory.

However, as is so often the case, Ronaldo, having been kept quiet for much of the contest, came good.

Having looked set to revive their World Cup qualification hopes, Man United’s new signing may have ended the Boys in Green’s Qatar bid following two stunning headers late on this evening.

Here’s a look at the two Ronaldo goals…

Right, that’s all from me.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

You can read our match report here and we’ll have more reaction to follow.

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Paul Fennessy

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