Ronaldo bags brace Portugal power past Ireland

International friendly

Portugal 3-0 Republic of Ireland

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace as Portugal outclassed Ireland in Aveiro, romping to a 3-0 victory ahead of their departure to Germany for Euro 2024.

It proved an awful end to the season for Ireland as they were outplayed by a devastating Portugal unit who will be one of the teams to watch in this summer’s tournament.

Joao Felix opened the scoring for the hosts midway through the first half and while they dominated, there was still hope for John O’Shea’s side as they only trailed by a single goal at the break.

But a moment of magic from the Portuguese talisman put the hosts in complete control five minutes into the second half, before his second of the night sealed the victory allowing Roberto Martinez’s side to finish the game in style in what was a perfect send off in front of their home fans.

The home side kicked into gear in the seventh minute as they enjoyed an extended period in possession; their slick passing taking them deep into Ireland territory.

Martinez’s men then went the length of the pitch as they played through the high press and while the ball eventually arrived into the box from the left flank, it was well read by Caoimhin Kelleher who gathered and killed the tempo.

Felix with the first shot at goal in the 11th minute as Portugal played through the press, before dispossessing Seamus Coleman high up the pitch. The Barcelona forward opted for precision over power, however, his effort was well blocked by Liam Scales.

Portugal were starting to exert their authority, and Kelleher had to be at his best after Ronaldo played Diogo Dalot in with an inch-perfect pass. The defender squared to Felix and while he looked to place it in the corner, the keeper got his left boot on it to help it past the post.

But the hosts made the best use of the set-piece, as they went short before Felix was found unmarked inside the box, with Sammie Szmodics caught ball-watching.

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Power and precision this time from the former Chelsea man, as he whipped an early shot beyond Kelleher to open the scoring.

Cristiano Ronaldo would get his first sight on goal in the 22nd minute after winning a soft free kick about 25 yards from goal following a coming together with Josh Cullen.

The captain looked to bend it around the inside of the wall, allowing Adam Idah make contact with his head, which sent the ball flying beyond Kelleher, who had moved to his right. Luckily for Ireland, the ball cannoned off the post and to safety.

The visitors looked to hit back, and they almost worked a chance on goal as Szmodics arrived onto the ball inside the box, however, Antonio Silva was alert to the danger and came in to clear for a corner.

But Portugal were in full flow as they continued to play their way around Ireland, leading to another good chance as Fernandes arrived onto a Ronaldo pull-back and whipped a fine effort into the side-netting, looking to beat Kelleher at his near post.

Ireland went on the attack offering Idah a half-chance to let fly from just outside the box, however, he rolled it inside to the arriving Szmodics, and again Portugal got back to prevent the shot from testing the keeper.

Idah was again played into a great attacking position a minute later as Smallbone found his striker bursting into the box. Coleman joined in the attack but the captain was knocked off his stride and it was cleared for a corner.

The positive play from the visitors petered out, and then on the stroke of half-time – just seconds after Idah had been threatening up the other end – Portugal flew forward before angling a deep cross in the direction of Ronaldo.

João Félix celebrates after opening the scoring.

Robbie Brady opted to leap early, and luckily for the defender, he made contact with his header before landing on the Portugal star who was fuming not to be awarded a penalty.

Two further chances would come during the three minutes of added time as Goncalo Inacio’s header flew over, before Ronaldo’s drilled effort was well stopped by Kelleher.

Five substitutions from the home side as a new-look Portugal came out for the second half, offering the unchanged Ireland a chance, perhaps, to capitalise on the wholesale changes.

But the hosts were on the front foot straight away, and it took less than five minutes to assert their authority, and double their lead, as the crowd got what they came to see – Ronaldo curling home an unstoppable effort from just inside the box.

A clipped ball into the Portugal captain, as Scales appeared in two minds whether to attack the ball or sit and defend.

Opting for the latter, he sent Ronaldo inside onto his perceived weaker left foot, he wrapped his boot around the ball and sent it flying into the far top corner.

It was enough to send John O’Shea to his bench to look for a response, with Callum O’Dowda, Mikey Johnston and Tom Cannon thrown into the action with the striker making his international debut.

An incident on the edge of the box between Jake O’Brien and Portugal substitute Diogo Jota went upstairs for a VAR review, and while there was a suggestion that the free on the edge could be upgraded to a penalty, it was in fact reversed as it was the Ireland player who had made initial contact with the ball.

Ireland looked to steady the ship, trying to pass the ball around, but it was different levels on the pitch as Portugal’s passing proved punishing once more, and it was Ronaldo again who was on hand to double his tally, sending his side three up.

Ronaldo celebrates yet another international goal.

Smallbone had worked back and appeared to do enough to stop the attack, but Dara O’Shea had gone to ground, which allowed Jota take the ball inside before sliding to Ronaldo who got between two Ireland players to sweep it home from ten yards out.

In the 62nd minute, Ireland almost capitalised on a long ball out of defence as Cannon raced onto the dropping ball and worked his way into a shooting position.

With the keeper advancing, the Leicester striker looked to whip it around and inside the near post, but it just wouldn’t come back and ended up flying wide.

Despite the three-goal cushion, there was no let up from the home side who pushed for a fourth; Fernandes again trying his luck from outside the box in the 73rd minute, but well saved by Kelleher.

It was damage limitation now for Ireland as Danilo worked a shot on goal a minute later, before Ronaldo again searched for a penalty as he looked to get dispossess the keeper.

And the chances kept coming, as Ronaldo missed a chance to wrap up the hat-trick as he whipped a curling effort goalwards but it just flew the wrong side of the post.

Fernandes again saw his shot deflect just wide thanks to O’Brien’s block as the home side created chance after chance.

There was still 15 minutes to negotiate for Ireland to keep the score down and thankfully for O’Shea’s side, Portugal took their foot off the pedal and ran down the clock with bigger things on their mind ahead of next week’s Euros opener.

Portugal: Diogo Costa; Pepe (Danilo HT), Goncalo Inacio, Antonio Silva, Joao Cancelo (Nuno Mendes HT), Diogo Dalot (Nelson Semedo HT); Bruno Fernandes, Joao Neves (Matheus Nunes 77), Rafael Leao (Diogo Jota HT); Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix (Ruben Neves HT)

Republic of Ireland: Caoimhin Kelleher; Seamus Coleman (Matt Doherty 70), Dara O’Shea, Jake O’Brien, Liam Scales, Robbie Brady (Callum O’Dowda 53); Josh Cullen, Will Smallbone (Mark Sykes 83); Sammie Szmodics (Jason Knight 70), Adam Idah (Tom Cannon 53), Troy Parrott (Mikey Johnston 53)

Referee: Chris Kavanagh (ENG)

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