Republic of Ireland 0
Ireland’s impressive renaissance under Stephen Kenny continued on Friday night as they held Portugal to a deserved scoreless drawn in their final home qualifier.
It could have finished even better for the Boys in Green as Matt Doherty found the net late on only to be called back for a soft foul by Will Keane on goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
The visitors had to play the final eight minutes and change with ten men after veteran defender Pepe was shown a second yellow card for a swinging elbow on Callum Robinson.
It was a game of few chances, with both sides hitting the target just twice apiece, but Ireland looked comfortable with and without the ball if still a little toothless in attack.
The result will suit both sides as Ireland can finish third with a win in Luxembourg on Sunday, while Portugal need just a point from Serbia at home to top the group.
Pepe’s lapse aside, the second half was played at a pace that suggested both sides had more important games to come later in the week.
Chiedozie Ogbene was particularly impressive on his first competitive start up front, alongside Jamie McGrath and man-of-the-moment Callum Robinson.
West Brom never looked like adding to his tally of five goals from the October games, but he was industrious throughout and forced mistakes from a shaky Portuguese backline.
Ronaldo forced Gavin Bazunu, who denied him from the spot in Lisbon in September, into a to save at his near post early on but it would be second-half injury before they did so again.
Ireland’s first chance arrived just before the half hour as Jamie McGrath found Robinson wide on the left and he cut in before curling a shot comfortably into Rui Patricio’s grasp.
The home side finished the first half strongly and Robinson ballooned a shot over before Ogbene was just unable to direct a Doherty cross on goal at the near post.
And they continued the second half as they’d finished the first, Egan unable to turn the loose ball on target after André Silva was fortunate not to be penalised for handball.
A slip from Bruno Fernandes moments later allowed Ogbene to tee up Josh Cullen on the edge of the box but his curling effort was no trouble for Patricio.
Ronaldo was jeered as he drilled a free kick into the wall but he showed exactly what he’s capable of when he sent a header centimetres past the post.
From nowhere, Portugal broke down the right and Fernandes sent in a pinpoint cross for his Manchester United teammate, his header trickling agonisingly wide.
Enda Stevens might have done better as he carried his run into the box before meeting an Ogbene cutback as he saw his first-time effort sail over.
Then came a moment of controversy as Pepe, who had already been booked, was shown a second yellow as he caught Robinson on the chin as he fended him off.
Kenny brought on Wigan Athletic striker Keane for Ogbene in injury time and he made a nuisance of himself as Portugal failed to clear a Cullen cross.
Patricio fell dramatically as he made the merest contact with Keane and referee Jésus Gil Manzano had already blown his whistle by the time Doherty stabbed home.
Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, John Egan; Matt Doherty, Josh Cullen, Jeff Hendrick (Conor Hourihane 79), Enda Stevens (James McClean 79); Jamie McGrath (Adam Idah 61), Chiedozie Ogbene (Will Keane 90+1), Callum Robinson.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Ruben Semedo, Pepe, Danilo, Diogo Dalot; Matheus Nunes (Joao Moutinho 56), Joao Palhinha, Bruno Fernandes (Renato Sanches 75); Andre Silva (Joao Felix 75), Goncalo Guedes (Rafael Leao 56 (José Fonte 83)), Cristiano Ronaldo
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano (Spain).