Qualification for July’s championships in Estonia in now out of Ireland’s hands following defeat in the first of three elite stage ties yet manager Paul Doolin remains hopeful that his side can make an impact.
After outplaying top seeds Portugal on their home patch of Olhao, Ireland got their pockets picked three minutes from full-time when substitute Michael Barker could only divert Esgaio’s zipped cross past his own goalkeeper Sean McDermott.
Sporting Lisbon keeper Veloso denied Ireland’s Anthony Forde on 10 minutes from the penalty spot, both the initial attempt and the re-take signalled after the officials spotted him moving off his line. The unmarked Seán Murray couldn’t convert from six yards out when John O’Sullivan picked him out while Samir Carruthers saw his low drive early in the second half batted away by Veloso.
PORTUGAL: Veloso; Ferreira, Olori, Martins, Ca; Bruma, Joao Mario, Esgaio, Cancelo; To-Ze, Cafu.
Subs: Gomes for Cafu, Betinho for To-Ze (both 64), Edgar Ie for Olori (70)
IRELAND: S. McDermott (Arsenal); C. Morrissey (Trieste), N. Byrne (Rochdale), D. Williams (Aston Villa), B. Garmston (West Brom); S. Carruthers (Aston Villa), J. O’Sullivan (Blackburn Rovers), F. Sutherland (QPR); S. Murray (Watford), A. O’Brien (Millwall), A. Forde (Wolves).
Subs: M. Barker (Bohemians) for Morrissey (h/t), S. Kavanagh (Fulham) for Garmston (76).
Referee: A. Boucaut (Belgium).