Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWash out in Warsaw, but what a result in Portugal! - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Wash out in Warsaw, but what a result in Portugal! - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Wash out in Warsaw, but what a result in Portugal!

England’s wash out in Poland last night may have prompted many who had gone to pubs to wonder, what will we do now? Luckily, there were other games to watch, most notably, Northern Ireland’s clash away at Portugal.

 Northern Ireland weren’t given a chance before this game, but with Portugal’s record in group stages of Qualifying in recent years, they knew they had a chance. It was a game that was supposed to be celebratory for one Cristiano Ronaldo on his 100th appearance for his country, but it was Manchester United’s Jonny Evans who really drew the plaudits.

Northern Ireland started the World Cup Qualifier with a 4-5-1 formation, aiming to restrict and frustrate the Portuguese, and in a first half with little chances, it was the underdogs that scored first after a brisk counter attack just before the half hour mark. The excellent Jonny Evans intercepted Pepe’s pass, before laying it forward to Kyle Lafferty, who in turn set up Niall McGinn to slot past Rui Patricio with a cool finish.

The night was supposed to be all about Ronaldo, and he nearly came up with the reply 5 minutes after McGinn’s goal, somehow hitting the crossbar with an instinctive flick from 6 yards out. Ronaldo was later denied by a smart save from Roy Carroll and a last ditch block from Aaron Hughes in the second half.

The Northern Irish were facing a tsunami of pressure, in a tsunami of conditions in Portugal in the second half, with long shots from Ruben Amorim, Nani, and substitute Varela all going close. Eventually though, the pressure led to a goal. Varela’s excellent ball in was flicked back by fellow sub Eder, where Helder Postiga was there to poke home with just over 10 minutes to go.

In the late stages Northern Ireland were hanging on for dear life, with Jonny Evans coming to the rescue – not for the first time – deflecting a dangerous cross out for a corner. They did just enough to hang on though, leaving Portugal level on points with Israel in their group, and 4 points behind leaders Russia, while Northern Ireland now have 2 points from 3 games. Their next qualifying game comes against Azerbaijan next month at Windsor Park.

 As I said earlier, it was Jonny Evans who really held Northern Ireland together. The amount of boxes put into the box by such quality as Nani, Ronaldo, and Varela was astonishing, and it was almost always Evans who got something away of these crosses. Evans has taken some stick over the last few years, with many saying he will never be good enough to play for the Red Devils. With a ragged United defence early on this season – which included in Evans – in games such as against Tottenham, and Galatasaray, it was Evans (and Ferdinand) who took a lot of the stick. However, he showed last year what an able deputy to Nemanja Vidic he was, and his leadership in a admittedly sub-par Northern Ireland team can only improve him as a player.