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Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after Portugal fail to beat Republic of Ireland

Cristiano Ronaldo insists it is ‘always difficult’ to play the Republic of Ireland after Portugal were held to a goalless draw in their World Cup qualifying clash in Dublin.

Group A leaders Portugal flattered to deceive on Thursday night, with Republic of Ireland’s promising recent form continuing as they secured a point.

Chiedozie Ogbene and Enda Stevens both came close for the hosts, while Matt Doherty had a late goal disallowed after Pepe was sent off for two yellow cards.

While the Republic of Ireland’s qualifying hopes are already over, they will be buoyed by another encouraging performance as they look to finish World Cup qualifying on a high.

Portugal remain top of Group A but are only level on points with Serbia, who they face in their final game on Sunday.

‘It’s always difficult to play in Ireland, but the point leaves our goals at our mercy,’ Ronaldo posted on Instagram.

‘On Sunday, in front of our own fans and in our house, we will stamp our presence at the World Cup in Qatar. Forza, Portugal!’

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kelly, meanwhile, insisted his side are ‘going well’ after their battling draw with Euro 2016 winners Portugal.

‘I thought we started a little nervously, Portugal were very good early on. In the second half I thought we were the better team,’ he said.

‘We scored a legitimate goal, it was not a foul, Will Keane stands his ground and we’re disappointed [with the decision].

‘We’ve played them twice, leading 1-0 out there after 88 minutes and in the second half tonight I thought we were excellent.

‘There’s room for improvement but we had more shots on target than they did. It was a good performance. We’ve evolved, you can see the way we’re playing.

‘In nine matches, we’ve only lost one, in Faro in the 97th minute. We’re going well.’

Captain Seamus Coleman added: ‘From the beginning you could see what we were trying to do and we looked comfortable for lots of the game.

‘Of course I want him [Stephen Kenny] to stay. You could see by the support, they’re enjoying the football, the players are being brave, wanting the ball, enjoying the ball.

‘I love playing for Ireland, as players we’re really enjoying it.’

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

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