Cristiano Ronaldo broke the men’s all-time international scoring record as his late goals secured a dramatic 2-1 win for Portugal in their World Cup Qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.
Heading into the 89th minute, Stephen Kenny and his side were on the cusp of a famous victory at the Estadio Algarve and their first points of the campaign.
They were two almost identical goals too, with Goncalo Guedes firing in the first cross which was nodded home by the Portugal captain (89) to break Ali Daei’s record. Then, with the last kick of the game, Joao Mario sent in a similar ball, which Ronaldo (90+6) again headed past Gavin Bazunu to take his tally to 111 international goals.
However, the new Manchester United signing did not begin the game well. It appeared to be an unlikely match-up when Ronaldo lined up a penalty in front of the Republic of Ireland’s 19-year-old goalkeeper early on, but Bazunu make an incredible save to deny the forward.
It took well over four minutes for VAR to decide whether the penalty would be taken too after Jeff Hendrick’s clumsy challenge on Bruno Fernandes, but it was deemed the Ireland midfielder did not touch enough of the ball before the man.
The Republic of Ireland matched up to their opponents well in the first half and deservedly went ahead on the stroke of half-time as Egan glanced a header home. However, Portugal dominated the second half and sucker-punched the Irish late on to extend their lead at the top of Group A by three points over second-place Serbia.
Stephen Kenny still awaits his first competitive victory as Republic of Ireland manager, with his side joint bottom on zero points with Azerbaijan, who they face on Saturday.
After a rather tame opening, the game exploded into life in the 10th minute. The Republic of Ireland were caught playing out from the back, with Fernandes latching onto Bazunu’s pass. Hendrick then came in from behind with a clumsy challenge sending Fernandes to ground.
The referee pointed to the spot, but there was a lengthy VAR check of over four minutes to determine if Hendrick touched any of the ball first before the man. The referee spent a few minutes himself at the pitchside monitor before letting the penalty stand.
Portugal: Patricio (6), Cancelo (7), Pepe (5), Dias (6), Gurreiro (6), Palhinha (7), Fernandes (6), B Silva (6), R Silva (5), Jota (7), Ronaldo (8).
Subs used: A Silva (6), Mendes (7), Mario (7), Moutinho (6), Guedes (7).
Rep of Ireland: Bazunu (8), Coleman (7), Duffy (7), Egan (7), Cullen (7), Doherty (7), Idah (7), Hendrick (6), McGrath (6), O’Shea (6), Connolly (7).
Subs used: Omobamidele (6), McClean (5), Molumby (n/a), Collins (n/a).
Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
It was an incredible moment too as Ronaldo stood on the cusp of breaking the all-time goalscoring record for international men’s football, but a sensational save from 19-year-old Bazunu – signed for Man City and currently on loan at Portsmouth – saw him denied. There was another VAR review afterwards too, checking if Bazunu was on his line, but that was over far more quickly.
Although heading into the game as underdogs, the Republic of Ireland could have taken the lead with a few chances of their own just before the half an hour. Shane Duffy and Egan could not turn home Jamie McGrath’s corner, before Aaron Connolly sent an effort over the crossbar.
Portugal’s best chance of the half came soon after as Bazunu was again the hero for Ireland. Joao Cancelo floated a wonderful cross into the area, aiming for Diogo Jota at the back post. He nodded goalwards, but at point-blank range, the teenage goalkeeper made an incredible save to push the ball away.
The Republic of Ireland continued to expose a less than convincing Portugal defence, with Connolly almost firing the hosts ahead with a great run in behind, but Rui Patricio and Joao Palhinha were there to block. From the resulting corner, Ireland did take the lead just before the break. McGrath again delivered the corner and Egan glanced a header into the far corner for his first international goal.
The Republic of Ireland had two penalty shouts early in the second half – both involving Connolly. The first saw the forward go over after contact from Cancelo, and the second was a barge from Palhinha. Both claims went unanswered.
Portugal continued to put pressure on the Ireland defence as they looked for a way through, but were guilty of some poor finishing. Fernandes curled an effort wide of the upright, before Bernardo Silva blazed an effort over the bar from close range.
However, there were two moments of magic to come from Ronaldo. Almost immediately after his free-kick was saved by another wonderful Bazunu save, Guedes drifted in a cross from the left, allowing the forward to rise up and nod home for his record-breaking 110th international goal.
With five minutes of added time to play, Portugal continued to press and snatched the victory with the final kick of the game. Mario delivered the cross this time, and in a copy of the equaliser, Ronaldo powered a header into the back of the net for the winning goal, sending the Estadio Algarve fans delirious on a historic evening.
However, it was a cruel blow for Ireland, who had performed so well for much of the game, but could not keep out the might of Ronaldo.
Man of the match – Cristiano Ronaldo
It’s hard to deny a man who has just make incredible history in men’s international football. He was the ultimate poacher for both goals, lurking in the box to head home, and showed once again why he is one of the best the game has ever seen.
- Portugal have won 12 of their last 13 matches in World Cup qualifying (D1) since losing 2-0 to Switzerland back in September 2016.
- The Republic of Ireland have now gone 14 competitive games without a victory (D7 L7), their outright longest run of competitive fixtures without a win.
- Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score from the penalty spot for Portugal for the first time in his last seven attempts, since failing to convert against Iran at the 2018 World Cup.
- John Egan scored his first-ever goal for the Republic of Ireland in his 15th appearance and with just his second shot on target.
Credit: Sky Sports