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Ireland star admits Cristiano Ronaldo heroics ‘hurt’ ahead of Portugal rematch

Republic of Ireland midfielder Jeff Hendrick has explained how Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace against them in September ‘hurt’, as the Manchester United forward produced late heroics to deny the Irish.

Manchester City loanee Gavin Bazanu joined an elite list of goalkeepers to deny the 36-year-old from the penalty spot as Ronaldo was made to wait to break the record for all time international goals.

But goals in the 89th minute and stoppage time earned Portugal a valuable 2-1 win in their pursuit of World Cup qualification — and in the process Ronaldo broke Ali Daei’s record of scoring the most international goals in men’s football.

John Egan’s strike on the stroke of half-time gave Ireland an unlikely lead only for the United man to nod home in the dying embers of the game.

The two meet again tonight (Thursday, 7.45pm kick off UK time) as Portugal look to reaffirm their World Cup qualification hopes.

With a point separating top two in the group Portugal and Serbia, the Serbians currently hold the advantage at the summit but their fate is in Fernando Santos’ sides hands having played a game fewer.

Hendrick lauded the effervescence of Ronaldo as, despite a quiet game last time out, he showed his class with the late double.

“We were hurt after the last game, the effort we put in. When you play a team like that, you know it’s going to be hard. We had a game-plan and it worked really, really well, up to the 88th minute,” he said as quoted by the Independent.

“We’d kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet for the whole game – that’s why he’s a top player. To have such a quiet game and score two goals is brilliant for him, but that hurt us.

“We have to try and put out that same level of commitment and hard work. We didn’t do too much wrong out there, but we’ve worked hard on what we can improve from that performance.”

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