Portugal find form after falling behind

 

Portugal remain on course for a place in the World Cup finals after surviving an early scare to win 3-1 in Limassol last night.

Michaelis Constantinou opened the scoring for the Cypriots but strikes from Nuno Gomes, Pauleta and Sergio Conceicao earned victory for the Portuguese.

The three points put Antonio Oliviera's men top of Group Two - ahead of the Republic of Ireland on goal difference by seven strikes - and ended the hopes of the third-placed Netherlands, despite their 5-0 win over Estonia last night.

Cyprus took the lead in the 23rd minute when Panathinaikos striker Constantinou took advantage of some slack Portuguese defending.

But substitute Nuno Gomes levelled two minutes into the second half, nodding the ball home from close range after a cross from Pauleta. The Bordeaux hitman turned goalscorer on the hour mark - stabbing in a low Sergio Conceicao cross to put the visitors ahead.

Around 50 Irish fans cheered on the home side but they were finally disappointed in the 71st minute when Sergio Conceicao put the Portuguese two ahead.

Nuno Capucho pushed the ball to the Inter Milan star on the left of the area and he drove the ball back across the goal to seal the win.

Mick McCarthy admitted he was not surprised by Portugal's win. "I had a little boost when I heard that the Cypriots were leading by a single goal at half-time," said the Republic manager. "But I really knew that Portuguese class would tell at the finish."

"I do not see Portugal making any slip up in their final game against Estonia," McCarthy said.

"Now they have a seven-goal advantage in the goal difference table. Coach Antonio Oliveira will be satisfied with nothing but victory against the Estonians," added McCarthy, who wants a win against Cyprus.

"That would be the perfect send off to our World Cup play-off games against an Asian nation come November. We are on a roll at the minute and I want to see that unbeaten 14-match record preserved."

He said his only worry was that the Republic must guard against incurring any further yellow or red cards.