Pepe sees red, as Cristiano Ronaldo and co. are frustrated by a plucky Republic of Ireland side in Dublin!
Portugal edged nearer to automatic World Cup qualification on Thursday, despite a poor 0-0 draw with Republic of Ireland. The result leaves them needing another point in their final game at home to Group A rivals Serbia, to earn their place at the Qatar World Cup.
Portugal only just avoided a shock loss to Ireland two months ago, thanks to two late Cristiano Ronaldo strikes. Fernando Santos’ outfit seemed content to take an away point against the fourth-placed Irish, safe in the knowledge that a superior goal difference to Serbia puts them in the driving seat.
They will have to do it without Pepe, however, after the veteran central defender was sent off late on for a picking up a second yellow card.
Chiedozie Ogbene, who plays in the third tier of English football with Rotherham United, was making his first international appearance for the Republic of Ireland. The Nigerian-born winger should have done better with a near-post header just before half-time.
The Boys in Green’s performance in the reverse fixture in Portugal marked a turning-point in Stephen Kenny’s 14-month tenure, during which he has blooded impressive youngsters like teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. However, he had to wait 12 games for a victory, in the shape of last month’s 3-0 win in Azerbaijan.
Playing in front of a capacity Aviva Stadium for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kenny saw more promising signs on Thursday. Striker Callum Robinson, in particular, was playing with the confidence of a man who had found the net five times in his last two internationals.
Missing Bernado Silva through injury with the Manchester City midfielder in the form of his life, Portugal also chose not to risk João Cancelo and Ruben Dias and it showed throughout the game.
Despite enjoying more possession, particularly with the extra man, Ireland did little to threaten Rui Patrício’s goal and Ronaldo went close again for the Portuguese at the end of the game.