HIBS defender Ryan McGivern played a major role in Oporto last night as Northern Ireland battled to a magnificent 1-1 draw with Portugal.
The Easter Road star, pictured, put in a sterling performance as manager Michael O’Neill’s side held firm against a side placed third in FIFA’s world rankings.
Indeed, the visitors, 114 places lower on that list, came within ten minutes of snatching a famous victory having taken a first-half lead.
O’Neill saw his side defy the odds, then declared: “I’m proud to be their manager.”
The Irish were starved of possession throughout but produced a spirited rearguard effort after Niall McGinn had put them in front with a cool finish on the half-hour.;
Helder Postiga finally salvaged a point for the Seleccao from close range.
“I don’t tend to get carried away and the main thing for me is that, regardless of the result, I was proud to stand there and be their manager,” O’Neill said. “That’s because of what they gave to the cause and to each other. I’m hugely proud of the effort. We saw a huge amount of character in this team. It’s a huge result.”
The evening had started with a special presentation for Real Madrid star Ronaldo on the occasion of his 100th cap, and he was clearly intent on celebrating with a goal.
The 27-year-old had numerous chances and saw plenty of the ball, but was ultimately shackled by a hard-working defence.
That O’Neill was able to leave the Dragao Stadium disappointed at not ruining Ronaldo’s big day with a shock win was all the more remarkable.
“We’re very disappointed only to draw but we recognised that we would have to defend for our lives and that certainly proved to be the case, especially in the second half,” O’Neill added. “But we got what we deserved, simple as that, and I’m immensely proud of the players. There was nothing more I could ask from first to last.