O’Neill proud of Northern Ireland draw

Northern Ireland defender Jonny EvansNorthern Ireland have returned from Portugal with a favourable result, after the home nation drew 1-1 with the Iberian side on Tuesday night.

Niall McGinn put the visitors into a shock lead in the first-half, and dogged defending kept the away team in the lead until 79 minutes, when Helder Postiga tied things up for the hosts.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was proud of his players after the game, and felt that it was as good a display as he has seen in his tenure with the nation.

“It’s up there. This is as difficult a place to come, certainly in Europe, against a world class team,” he told Sky Sports.

“All credit goes to the players. They were magnificent. Their work rate, desire, the way they worked for each other – you cannot ask for more than that.

“It was very harsh to lose a goal at the end. Of course, we had to weather severe pressure but at times I thought we passed the ball well, scored a fantastic goal and we’re coming out disappointed with a draw.

“The shape of the team was excellent, the work rate, the way they went about the game, was fantastic.

“To go ahead and stifle Portugal was fantastic. I’m disappointed for the players because they deserved a wee bit more than a draw from the game.

“They have to take confidence and belief from what they did tonight. Their togetherness and spirit has been unquestionable. At times it has been questioned, but certainly tonight they answered that.

“There is more in this team, because we were down a few bodies.

“We’ve got younger players coming into the team all the time. If they can continue to improve and grow and obviously have more performances like tonight, then if you have that spirit you will always get something in football,” he concluded.

By Gareth McKnight