Northern Ireland 2-4 Portugal

Moutinho thanks matchwinner Ronaldo

September 7, 2013
By Andy Brassell

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- After his hat-trick helped Portugal out of a spot of World Cup qualifying bother at rainy Windsor Park, Cristiano Ronaldo did not hang around to regale the waiting media with a blow-by-blow account of his exploits. Instead, the Real Madrid star left via a side exit and left his team-mates to express their gratitude for his contribution.

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"We're thankful for the player that he is," Joao Moutinho said. "We have to congratulate him for everything he's done for our country and to help [our team]. Every player gives everything they have for the national side. Ronaldo is an important piece of our team, and of course it really helps when he has a good game."

"He had a great night and his goals were very important to us," Nani said, "but all the players did well."

It had not all been plain sailing, with Portugal a goal down and a man down when the Manchester United winger came on as a 55th minute substitute, with his side looking like their waving goodbye to their chances of catching Russia in top spot.  But Portugal fought back to win 4-2.

"I have to confess I was a bit worried when I came on," Nani added, "but we kept confident that we could change the result and that's what we did. It's very important. The team's competing for first position, so I think we did really well tonight to get the three points and to keep to Russia under pressure."

With Portugal two points ahead of Fabio Capello's side in Group F but having played a game more, they still require a slip-up from their rivals, but Moutinho believed the display by Paulo Bento's side in Belfast showed they have the nerve required.

"We achieved a major objective in coming here at a difficult stadium to come to," he said. "Against a team that had us under pressure with their style of play. We believe in ourselves.  We knew it would have been tougher if we'd have left here without a result, but we always believed in ourselves and we continued playing our football, and we managed to come back for the win."

Having just resolved his own club future, signing a new five-year deal at Old Trafford last week, Nani is pleased to have put months of speculation behind him and is looking forward to concentrating on winning back a starting place for club and country. "I'm very happy," the winger said. "Now I can be a bit more relaxed and just focus on my job for the team, and just enjoy my football."

Meanwhile, Moutinho made a successful debut for Monaco last weekend, returning from injury to help Claudio Ranieri's side to a win at Marseille and to take top spot in Ligue 1.

"Life is great there," he said. "Very different, but very good. I'm not 100% yet, but I feel a lot better and hope to continue improving."

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