Belfast Telegraph

Ronaldo is a genius but red cards proved crucial at Windsor Park

By Ian Cahoon

In the end it was the pantomime villain of the piece who left Northern Ireland fans cursing their luck.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who was the subject of most of the home fans’ ire during the match, responded with a world-class hat-trick.

And as the Northern Ireland fans left for the soaking streets of south Belfast last night they could do little but take their hat off to the Real Madrid superstar.

Brian Costello was one of them. He said: “It’s hard to stomach, but he’s a world-class player.

“The crowd were giving him a bit of stick obviously but it’s only because of the player he is and nothing else.

“When you look at it, he was the one to make the difference for them because without his goals I don’t think they would have come back to be honest.

“I thought we were playing really well until they made it 2-2 and from that time on we started to look tired.

“At the end of the day we’ve really put it up to them and gone down fighting.”

The sendings off of Chris

Brunt and Kyle Lafferty obviously had a big impact on the game, and both players received little sympathy from the fans.

“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot with both red cards, haven’t we?” asked Carl McGinty.

“Neither player did it deliberately obviously but they’ve both let us down with their stupidity in the circumstances.

“Brunt’s sending off probably turned the game on its head.

“Lafferty’s red totally killed off our challenge and the suspension is really going to hurt us for Tuesday now.

“To get a big result in these type of games you need to be 100% which includes the tackles you make.”

Tommy Greer agreed: “I doubt there were many neutrals here, but what a game it was for them.

“Fair play to Portugal, they showed their quality in the end when they looked out of it.

“They were down to 10 men and 2-1 down away from home and they have left with three points. As for us I just felt we threw it away. We had such a strong position but the sending off and their equaliser coming within a short space of time was the big thing.

“Lafferty and Brunt haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory for us down the years and they have cost us again.

“Ronaldo gets the headlines, and he should, but from a Northern Ireland point of view we have let ourselves down a bit.”

William Moore felt the spirit of last month’s win over Russia was carried into the game, even though Michael O’Neill’s men fell short in the end.

“It was pretty clear the Portugal players were losing their cool from early on, which was strange.

“Maybe it showed the pressure they were under to come and get a result but also that they knew they were in a battle.

“After beating Russia it showed what a result can do, not only for us but for teams coming to Windsor. In the early stages I thought we maybe showed them too much respect but that fairly changed as the game went on!”

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