Portugal held on with 10 men at Aviva Stadium to secure a 0-0 draw against Republic of Ireland. There were few chances in Dublin, Cristiano Ronaldo going close in the second half, the match taking a sharp turn in the 81st minute when Pepe was sent off.
Fernando Santos selected a weakened line up with six players a booking away from a suspension against Serbia. It was largely a match to forget, but a vital point gained in Portugal's quest for automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
Weakened Line Up
Fernando Santos used caution with José Fonte, Rúben Dias, João Cancelo, Renato Sanches and Diogo Jota starting on the bench. João Palhinha was the only player risked in the starting side.
Palhinha started next to Matheus Nunes in midfield with Gonçalo Guedes next to Cristiano Ronaldo and André Silva in attack. Danilo Pereira partnered Pepe in central defence with Nélson Semedo and Diogo Dalot the full backs.
The first half lacked quality with chances hard to come by. A quick Bruno Fernandes free kick released Andre Silva who couldn’t beat Gavin Bazunu, Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot blocked after some nice interplay between Semedo and Guedes.
Ronaldo took a knock early on and went down after a collision with Matt Doherty, but referee Jesús Gil was reluctant to blow his whistle and frequently allowed the game to continue.
Republic of Ireland got into the game with Callum Robinson’s shot parried by Rui Patrício, John Egan heading a corner wide before Robinson sent a shot wide.
The Boys in Green were threatening from set pieces and went close to fashioning a chance before the break. A free kick fell dangerously to Jeff Hendrick and Chiedozie Ogbene headed Robinson’s cross wide.
Ogbene sparks Ireland into attack
Ireland started the second half well with Ogbene the main instigator. João Palhinha was fortunate to avoid a booking after holding him back and Danilo Pereira got into two separate struggles with the Nigerian born winger.
Matheus Nunes was having a poor game and almost gifted the hosts a goal. He gave the ball away in Portugal’s 18-yard box, but was spared by Josh Cullen who fired a weak shot straight at Patrício.
Nunes and Gonçalo Guedes made way for João Moutinho and Rafael Leão, Ronaldo going close in the 67th minute when he narrowly headed André Silva’s cross wide.
Danilo was booked for taking out Ogbene before Pepe was cautioned for handball. In the 75th minute Santos introduced Renato Sanches and João Félix for Bruno Fernandes and André Silva.
Ogbene continued to be a bright spark for Ireland, creating a chance for Enda Stevens that went high and wide. Ronaldo went close from distance before the match came to life in the 81st minute.
Portugal reduced to 10 men
Pepe lost possession near the touch line, inviting pressure from Robinson who went down after catching a high shot. Pepe was shown a second yellow card which saw Santos replace Leão with José Fonte.
Portugal were sitting dangerously deep, blocking a succession of shots with most of the 50,737 in attendance finally finding their voice. They celebrated when Doherty put the ball in the back of the net but there had been a foul in the build up.
Ronaldo tried his luck in added time, his shot from a tight angle saved by Bazunu.
Fernando Santos' critics will be frothing at the mouth, but Republic of Ireland proved how difficult they can be to break down in the Algarve.
With Aviva Stadium sold out, Bernardo Silva injured, Nuno Mendes suspended and Santos starting with Rúben Dias, João Cancelo, Renato Sanches, João Félix and Diogo Jota on the bench, the stage was set for a tough game in Dublin and so it proved.
There is little use drawing conclusions from this match which goes down as one to forget.
Final thoughts from Aviva Stadium after a match to forget. Off to Portugal tomorrow for another football mission. pic.twitter.com/PsPKTFPnXU— Matthew Marshall (@noobzcorp) November 11, 2021
Portugal's main aim was avoiding defeat. Pepe's dismissal meant Portugal had little option but to dig in for the final 10 minutes, the point gained putting the Seleção in prime position to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Fernando Santos, Portugal coach: “Am I happy with the result? Naturally. In terms of our position, winning 5-0 or drawing here was the same thing. Of course I’d prefer to win 5-0, but it’s a positive result. Serbia has to play in our stadium to win. I’m convinced we’ll qualify.”
Portugal XI (4-2-31): Rui Patrício - Diogo Dalot, Danilo Pereira, Pepe, Nélson Semedo - Matheus Nunes (João Moutinho’), João Palhinha - Bruno Fernandes (Renato Sanches 75’) - Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva (João Félix 75’), Gonçalo Guedes (Rafael Leão 56’ (José Fonte 83’))
Unused substitutes: José Sá, Diogo Costa, Rúben Dias, João Cancelo, William Carvalho, Rúben Neves, João Mário, Diogo Jota
Coach: Fernando Santos
Republic of Ireland XI (3-4-3): G. Bazunu - J. Egan, S. Duffy, S. Coleman - E. Stevens (J. McClean 78’), J. Hendrick (C. Hourihane 78’), J. Cullen, M. Doherty - J. McGrath (A. Idah 61’), C. Robinson, C. Ogbene (W. Keane 91’)
Unused substitutes: M. Travers, C. Kelleher, R. Manning, T. Parrott, C. O'Dowda, J. Knight, N. Collins, A. Browne
Coach: S. Kenny