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  -   NEWS
Saturday, October 7, 2000
Ireland hold Portugal
By Dale Johnson

Portugal 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland earned a brilliant point at the Stadium of Light as Portugal failed to hold onto a slender league in this World Cup qualifier.

The European Championship semifinalists had taken the lead through Sergio Conceicao after a period of concerted pressure only for substitute Matt Holland to level matters with a fantastic strike and seal a 1-1 draw.

Portugal, pouring men forward from the back, took the lead they craved and deserved when Parma midfielder Conceicao swooped on a long ball curled across from left to right by defender Dimas and nipped inside Ian Harte to fire past Alan Kelly with the aid of a deflection off Richard Dunne which took the shot just inside the far post.

But Ireland boss Mick McCarthy immediately accentuated the positive again by abandoning his new five-in-a-line midfield, pushing Holland up front to join a lonely Robbie Keane - whose second-half frustration was shown in a booking for petulantly throwing the ball away after a free-kick was awarded against him on 63 minutes.

But just nine minutes later, after another substitute Damien Duff had found Roy Keane with a short pass from the right touchline the Irish skipper touched the ball square and Holland thundered it past goalkeeper Quim from fully 25 yards.

It was a completely unexpected turn of events and new boy Holland was engulfed by disbelieving team-mates to celebrate his first international goal.

Once Portugal had struck the front almost everybody in the three-quarter-full Stadium of Light expected the Irish to crumble, but Holland's hammer gave them fresh heart and fresh legs even though skipper Keane and winger Jason McAteer picked up needless bookings.

Portugal's Figo and Rui Costa had run the game. Alan Kelly made three smart saves before the break and Dunne and Breen repeated their Amsterdam heroics in central defence.

The last 15 minutes were a roller-coaster of near-misses as Portugal took off both their main strikers to seek new avenues of breaking down a tenacious Irish defence, now reinforced with not only midfielders but forwards as well.

 

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