NI boss Michael O'Neill heaps praise on players after draw

Northern Ireland players celebrate after the final whistle in Porto
Northern Ireland players celebrate after the final whistle in Porto

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill heaped praise on his players after an outstanding display earned an unexpected 1-1 draw against Portugal.

Former Tottenham striker Helder Postiga rescued Portugal with a late equaliser as O'Neill's side made a mockery of the 114 ranking places between the nations.

"This is as difficult a place as there is to come. We are disappointed to only come away with a point," O'Neill said.

"Credit the players, their desire and workrate was magnificent," he added.

"The togetherness and spirit in the squad is unquestionable. The boys all worked for each other and we soaked up the pressure well.

"Our shape was fantastic and the way we went about our job was fantastic, I thought the players maybe deserved more.

"This result will give us great confidence for the future and there is a lot more to come from this team if we continue to improve and grow."

Niall McGinn, scorer of the goal that took Northern Ireland to within 11 minutes of a famous victory, admitted it had been an incredible night.

"This is a dream come true and I'm delighted to have scored my first international goal," McGinn said.

"I just saw the keeper coming and dinked it over him. The boys were great, especially in the first half, and we can hold our heads high after this result."

Aaron Hughes, the Fulham defender, said the squad had known they had "nothing to lose" against the Euro 2012 semi-finalists for whom Cristiano Ronaldo won a 100th cap. "We kept our shape, defended well, and everyone helped each other out," he said.

"Portugal were very fluent up front - they had a lot of movement but we coped really well. All the lads put in a great shift."

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