Belfast Telegraph

The win was on against Portugal, but Northern Ireland will strike back: Paterson

By Graham Luney

They may have had very different goals at Windsor Park on Friday night but Martin Paterson and Nani were singing from the same hymnsheet when they gave an honest assessment of the thrilling World Cup qualifier.

 

The incident packed Group F showdown between Northern Ireland and Portugal was a fitting farewell to the famous old stadium before it receives a makeover.

Paterson, like his Northern Ireland team-mates, can’t escape the feeling of what might have been and the Huddersfield Town man will now look to take his frustration out on Luxembourg tomorrow.

Nani, fresh from agreeing a new five-year deal at Manchester United, was also generous in giving his time to reflect on the memorable clash which the visitors won 4-2.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s second half 15-minute hat-trick stole the show in spectacular fashion but both Paterson and Nani acknowledged that the home side missed a golden opportunity to slay a giant.

Northern Ireland, ranked 109th in the world, are kicking themselves after failing to administer a knockout blow on the seventh best nation.

The Green and White Army were dreaming of more heroics when Jamie Ward poked the hosts 2-1 ahead against 10-man opponents following Helder Postiga’s dismissal.

But reckless tackles from Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty saw them take early baths as Ronaldo strutted his stuff.

Paterson headed in the winner against Fabio Capello’s Russia last month but on this occasion indiscipline among Michael O’Neill’s men prevented another fairytale outcome.

“We are more gutted than disappointed to be honest because at 2-1 we thought we were on our way to another victory,” said Paterson.

“After they had a man sent off and we scored I thought we had the game possibly won.

“They are a world class team with world class players and their talent shone through, they competed well against us.

“But we managed to get ourselves back into the game and took the lead so we are gutted to lose that game.

“Michael (O’Neill) was disappointed we didn’t get the points that we deserved. Obviously Cristiano Ronaldo was the star man — world class players are world class players. When you have only nine players in your team they become even better.

“The Portugal game was more difficult than the Russia one because I felt Portugal were a much better team but for most of the game, up to 60 minutes, we were doing really well.

“Their centre-halves are no mugs, they are big and strong but I did work hard and tried to get into the channels.

“The turning points were the sendings offs but it won’t be a problem picking ourselves up for the Luxembourg game. We’ll be fine and give it 100%, looking for a win.”

Manchester United winger Nani (pictured), a 55th minute replacement for Meireles, entered the fray when Paulo Bento’s men were on the ropes but they hit back in style.

“They are a good team and when we had Helder Postiga sent off we were up against it,” said Nani.

“I was a bit worried and I must confess I was concerned when I came on in the second half but I was still confident that we could change the result and we did.

“But it was up to us to show we are a good team and battle when things go against you.

“It was important for us to get the three points to keep pressure on Russia and it was a great night for us in the end.

“Cristiano (Ronaldo) had a fantastic game at Windsor but I think all the players did a great job in a very important game for us.”

On his United future, Nani said: “I’m pleased to get the deal done and I can relax more now. I want to enjoy my football and help the team.”

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