09.02.2005 at 19:30 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
1 - 0
Referee: Matt Messias (England)
Wednesday 9th Feb 2005
Rep of Ireland 1 Portugal 0
A first ever goal for his country by Newcastle United defender Andy O’Brien was enough to gain the Republic of Ireland another prized scalp, as European Championship finalists Portugal were beaten 1-0 in front of a crowd of just over 44,000 at Lansdowne Road.
With one eye on the resumption of World Cup action in Israel next month, Brian Kerr had promised to field a strong team and he was as good as his word. Ireland's player of the year Kevin Kilbane overcame
minor knocks to take his now customary place in midfield, where he was joined by the familiar figure of long-term injury absentee Matt Holland, returning for his first appearance for Ireland since the game against the Dutch in Amsterdam last June.
At the back, Kerr kept faith with his World Cup campaign centre-half pairing of Andy O'Brien and Kenny Cunningham, despite the forceful claims of the in-form Richard Dunne of Manchester City.
John O'Shea and Steve Finnan provided further experience in the full-back positions, with Andy Reid and Damien Duff providing the width ahead of them.
Up front, Robbie Keane and Clinton Morrison were charged with providing the cutting edge. Allowing for the enforced absence of Roy Keane and Stephen Carr, this, you suspect, was a starting eleven just two short of the team which will take on Israel in Tel Aviv on March 26.
Portugal may have been wearing black and white as part of an admirable anti-racism campaign but there was nothing monochrome about their play.
Early on both sides struggled to master a blustery wind and a sometimes treacherous surface was made slippery by sheeting rain, but it was the visitors who threatened first.
Tiago fired a 20-yard drive just wide of Shay Given's post, and then Andrade somehow shot over from almost under the bar, as a corner left the Irish defence momentarily flat-footed.
There was nothing pedestrian about the Irish attack either. Earlier in the week Kerr spoke about the likes of Reid, Duff and Keane playing with the invention of street footballers, and there was plenty of excellent link-up play between all three as the Irish took the game to Portugal.
Morrison also featured prominently in bringing the wide men into the game, and it was at the end of one of their more expansive passing moves that a corner produced the breakthrough.
Reid swung the ball in and when the Portuguese failed to clear O'Shea's looping header, the unlikely figure of Andy O' Brien reacted quickest to score a poacher's goal his first for his country.
For all Ronaldo's trickery and running, and some typically slick passing moves on the part of the Portuguese, 30 minutes had elapsed before Shay was properly tested, Petit's powerful free kick drawing a fine save from the keeper.
While Portugal's manager Luis Felipe Scolari made no less than four changes at half-time, Kerr signalled his satisfaction with Ireland's first 45 by restricting himself to just one, Graham Kavanagh coming on for Kilbane, who seemed not to have entirely recovered from the previous Sunday's exertions with Everton.
In truth, the second-half didn't exactly provide a feast of incidents to fill the notebook, although the battle of the winged wonders, Duff and Ronaldo, always provided a diverting sideshow and even a few sparks to enliven a match that was rarely in danger of being confused with a competitive fixture.
As early as the opening five minutes of the match, referee Messias had to calm down the pair after a clash, and he was forced to intervene even more decisively in the 63rd minute, showing a yellow card to the 50-cap man after Duff had blatantly tripped the Manchester United player.
Three minutes later Matias sought retribution and was similarly punished for a foul on Duff, who was then withdrawn by Kerr and replaced by Liam Miller. Doubtless the watching Jose Mourinho was happy, and almost immediately afterward it was Alex Ferguson's turn to relax when Ronaldo was brought ashore.
Ireland almost doubled their advantage on 75 minutes when, under pressure from Robbie Keane, Matias turned an Andy Reid ball against his own post.
At the other end there was a stunning optical illusion five minutes from time when Viana's long drive seemed to have crept inside Shay Given's post, only to reappear around the back of the goal.
That was as close as the visitors came to spoiling the party, leaving Kerr's team to face into the resumption of more onerous World Cup duties with another fine win under their belts at Lansdowne Road.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given; Finnan, O'Brien, Cunningham (Dunne 60), O'Shea; Reid, Holland, Kilbane (Kavanagh 45), Duff (Miller 69); Morrison, Keane (McGeady 82).
PORTUGAL: Ricardo, Ferreira (Viana 45),
Andrade, Caneira, Matias; Petit, Tiago (Meira 45), Deco (Costa), Ronaldo (Fernandez 70), Simao (Boa Morte 60), Pauleta (Gomes 45).