Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Pepe: no defence for Portugal's display

Portugal defender Pepe has revealed that he and his team-mates were feeling a little bit sorry for themselves after failing to beat Northern Ireland.

The occasion had been set up for Cristiano Ronaldo to be the star of the show with him making his 100th appearance for his country.

But boy did Northern Ireland spoil the party with a fantastic spirited display that helped them to a 1-1 draw, coming hot on the heels of a 1-0 defeat for Portugal in Russia.

Those two results mean that Portugal, the favourites to qualify from Group F, are now in third place behind Israel on goal difference and five points adrift of leaders Russia after four games.

Real Madrid ace Pepe said: “We wanted to give everyone a reason to be joyful for Cristiano Ronaldo on his very special night but it was not possible. Therefore we are sorry for ourselves and for him.

“We did not start the game well, we lacked intensity and we have no doubt we have to improve in the coming games to keep fighting for our goal which is World Cup qualification.

“We didn't underestimate Northern Ireland but should have created much more.”

Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho added: “We didn't have a good game against Northern Ireland. We did, however, do enough to win.

“Northern Ireland scored early, as Russia had done, and then defended really well.

“We are missing things in games but we firmly believe in qualification. We must keep calm and believe in our work.”