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Callaghan proud as NI girls show class in defeat

Portugal 1 Northern Ireland 0

By Laure James

Marissa Callaghan has praised Northern Ireland's character following their 1-0 defeat to Portugal in Oeiras, insisting they were a match for the hosts.

In the first of the friendly double-header, Northern Ireland put on an impressive defensive show with only goalkeeper Jackie Burns' second-half blunder separating the teams at the Estadio Nacional.

"It was a really good performance, we frustrated them and they found it hard to break us down," Northern Ireland captain Callaghan said. "Their only chances really came from outside the box, and they scored with a mistake of ours which was hard to take, but it said to us that we weren't beaten by them.

"After going 1-0 down, we were trying to close them much higher up and were more confident.

"It's January and our next big games are not until September when our World Cup qualifiers begin. It's great just to get us all together. For me, it's another cap and it's the first time I've ever played a team like Portugal so it's massive for us."

Portugal dominated the first 20 minutes, but Alfie Wylie's troops held firm and resisted first-half pressure.

Portuguese chances were few in number. Skipper Claudia Neto came close from the edge of the box on 38 minutes, before Suzane Pires' free-kick went wide.

Neto had inherited the armband after all-time top scorer Edite Fernandes announced her retirement last week.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, were showing resourcefulness and discipline beyond their experience. Despite having only had one training session prior to kick-off, Wylie's girls looked well organised and Jessica Foy kept Portugal at bay with an important block just before the break.

Portugal boss Francisco Leto threw on Matilde Figueiras for Matilde Fidalgo and Andreia Norton for Tatiana Pinto - and it wasn't long before they were off the mark.

Burns collected Dolores Silva's shot but dropped it into her own net six minutes into the half.

Sub Norton then went one-on-one with Burns but couldn't finish, before Diana Silva's effort whistled past the post. Following a largely convincing defensive show, Northern Ireland had a late attack with Julie Nelson skimming the bar on 86 minutes.

Northern Ireland travel to Aueda for their second friendly with Portugal tomorrow at 6.30pm.

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