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Tuesday 04 Jun 2024
Northern Ireland Women narrowly defeated by Portugal

Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team narrowly lost to Portugal in a UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifier in Lurgan tonight.

Tanya Oxtoby’s sidetook the lead against a team 25 places above them in the world rankings, but Portugal then struck twice to maintain their 100% record in League B Group 3.

Lauren Wade was on target for Northern Ireland in front of 1711 spectators at Mourneview Park, while Kika Nazareth and Andreia Norton netted for the Portuguese.

The girls in green and white saw more of the ball than they did during part one of the B3 double header in Leiria on Friday night when Portugal scored four without reply.

Northern Ireland boss Oxtoby freshened things up from that game, making three changes to the starting line-up.

In came Caragh Hamilton, Brenna McPartlan and Joely Andrews, while Demi Vance, Nadene Caldwell and Chloe McCarron dropped to the bench. Portugal also made three changes to their starting 11.

Before the game Oxtoby urged her team to have a go – and they began brightly in the sunshine.

Northern Ireland opened the scoring after just five minutes with a great team goal. Keri Halliday fed fellow striker Simone Magill down the right and she raced towards goal before squaring for Wade to slide the ball into the net.

Portugal sprang into life after that and immediately applied pressure. Lucia Alves curled an effort narrowly wide as they swept forward, while Jackie Burns smothered a Nazareth drive.

Joely Andrews had a shot blocked by the Portuguese defence before Portugal drew level on 18 minutes. Alves fired in a teasing cross which was met by Nazareth who directed her header into the bottom corner.

Burns, captaining Northern Ireland as she reached the 50-cap milestone for her country, made an excellent save on 28 minutes, pushing a rasping drive from Nazareth over the top.

However, she could do little to prevent Portugal’s second a couple of minutes later, midfielder Norton clipping the ball past her after driving into the area. Norton's shot from eight yards deflected off Rebecca McKenna as it entered the net close to the post.

Telma Encarnacao then came close for the visitors with a well-executed overhead kick.

Just after the break Encarnacao had another effort on goal, but Burns saved comfortably. And then Burns came off her line to clutch a deep cross from Ana Borges and stood tall to push out a shot from Portugal substitute Jessica Silva.

Very few chances were created in the second half as Portugal found it hard to penetrate the hard-working Northern Ireland defensive line and the home side struggled to fashion opportunities.

A dangerous corner from substitute Casey Howe in the closing stages caused a bit of panic in the Portugal box, however the ball was ultimately cleared.

Bosnia and Herzegovina defeated Malta earlier today to move two points ahead of Northern Ireland in the group and into second place in the table behind the Portuguese.

Oxtoby’s side will finish their qualification campaign away to Malta on 12 July and at home to the Bosnians on 16 July.

Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns (captain), Caragh Hamilton, Rebecca McKenna, Rebecca Holloway, Laura Rafferty, Rachel Dugdale, Joely Andrews, Brenna McPartlan, Simone Magill, Keri Halliday, Lauren Wade.

Substitutes: (used) Casey Howe, Emily Wilson, Nadene Caldwell, Louise McDaniel; (unused) Lauren Perry (GK), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (GK), Demi Vance, Chloe McCarron, Marissa Callaghan, Danielle Maxwell, Kelsie Burrows, Kerry Beattie.

Portugal: Ines Pereira, Lucia Alves, Ana Borges, Catarina Amado, Carole Costa, Diana Gomes, Andreia Norton, Andreia Jacinto, Diana Silva, Telma Encarnacao, Kika Nazareth.

Substitutes: (used) Jessica Silva, Dolores Silva, Joana Marchao, Ana Dias; Patricia Morais (GK), Sierra Cota-Yarde (GK), Ana Seica, Ana Rodrigues, Stephanie Ribeiro, Joana Martins, Andreia Faria, Carolina Mendes.