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Friday 31 May 2024
Northern Ireland Women find going tough against Portugal

Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team were defeated 4-0 by Portugal in a UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifier in Portugal tonight.

Tanya Oxtoby’s side were under pressure throughout the 90-plus minutes at Estádio Dr Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria.

They battled hard against a team 25 places above them in the world rankings, but Portugal’s quality shone through.

Goalkeeper Jackie Burns was Northern Ireland’s player of the match as she produced several fine stops.

Portugal showed why they are the top seeds in League B Group 3 as they played slick football - and they consolidated top spot and their 100% record in B3 with a fine performance.

Francisco Neto’s side came flying out of the blocks and Northern Ireland had a let-off in the opening minute when Telma Encarnacao met a cross into the area from Jessica Silva but the striker could only head it against Rebecca McKenna’s back inside the six-yard box and she scooped the rebound over the top.

Jessica Silva raced through on goal but the ball got stuck under her feet as Burns raced off her line and it was eventually cleared.

Kika Nazareth lofted the ball over the bar as Portugal continued to attack and the visitors defended resolutely. McKenna was particularly impressive with a couple of important interventions.

On 24 minutes Portugal were awarded a penalty. Burns pushed out a well-struck free-kick from Joana Marchao and McKenna was adjudged to have pulled back Lucia Alves as she tried to reach the loose ball. Carole Costa stepped up to coolly fire the spot kick past Burns to make it 1-0.

Burns produced a fine double save in the 31st minute. She pushed away a dangerous Jessica Silva cross and then palmed a follow-up drive from Alves over the bar.

Demi Vance slid in superbly to clear the ball as Portugal threatened once again, however Portugal keeper Patricia Morais had to be on her toes to clutch a Rachel Dugdale cross into the area as Simone Magill looked set to pounce.

Four minutes after the break Portugal doubled their lead. A pinpoint long pass from Andreia Jacinto, who was tidy on the ball throughout the game, found Alves at the right hand side of the area and she cleverly lobbed the ball over Burns 16 yards out. It was a sublime finish.

Andreia Norton’s looping header bounced off the top of the bar as the home team piled forward, and Encarnacao scooped an effort over the top.

Burns bravely saved at Nazareth’s feet and then she used her feet to keep out a shot from Portugal substitute Diana Silva.

Portugal extended their lead further on 83 minutes with almost a carbon copy of their second. This time a long pass by Costa over the top of the Northern Ireland defensive line found substitute Catarina Amado at the right hand side of the area and she lofted the ball over Burns into the net.

Deep into injury time Alves got her second of the night and Portugal’s fourth as she poked the ball home from eight yards out. Amado provided the assist.

Part two of a B3 double header against Portugal is a home game against Neto’s side at Mourneview Park in Lurgan on Tuesday (4 June).

Portugal: Patricia Morais, Lucia Alves, Joana Marchao, Ana Borges (captain), Carole Costa, Diana Gomes, Andreia Norton, Andreia Jacinto, Jessica Silva, Francisca (Kika) Nazareth, Telma Encarnacao.

Substitutes: (used) Diana Silva, Catarina Amado, Andreia Faria, Ana Dias, Joana Martins; (unused) Ines Pereira (GK), Sierra Cota-Yarde (GK), Ana Seica, Ana Rodrigues, Beatriz Cameirao, Dolores Silva, Stephanie Ribeiro.

Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns, Rebecca McKenna, Demi Vance, Rebecca Holloway, Laura Rafferty (captain), Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Rachel Dugdale, Simone Magill, Keri Halliday, Lauren Wade.

Substitutes: (used) Casey Howe, Louise McDaniel, Brenna McPartlan, Caragh Hamilton; (unused) Lauren Perry (GK), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (GK), Marissa Callaghan, Danielle Maxwell, Kelsie Burrows, Emily Wilson, Joely Andrews, Kerry Beattie.

Image: Lucia Alves, who scored twice for Portugal in Leiria, battles for possession with Louise McDaniel.