Neto's late finish breaks Ireland's resolve
Ireland 0 Portugal 1
A Portuguese captain wearing No 7 inflicted defeat on Ireland's women last night in their concluding European Championship qualifier.
Claudia Neto made her mark on the game at Tallaght Stadium in the style of her male counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo by dominating an Irish side whose qualification ambitions had already vanished.
Neto grabbed the solitary goal 12 minutes from full-time by following up Emma Byrne's save from her penalty to bundle the rebound over the line.
Victory secured the Portuguese second spot and a play-off shot at reaching next year's finals in Holland, while the Irish finish a disappointing fourth of five nations.
"I didn't think we deserved to lose tonight," reflected Ireland manager Sue Ronan afterwards. "I know we didn't create a lot of chances in the game but neither did Portugal."
Ireland had started brightly by creating the best chance of the game after just two minutes when Aine O'Gorman's header struck the crossbar.
Still, the class of the Portuguese, especially Neto, began to shine as the game progressed.
The Swedish-based midfielder bagged all three goals in last week's 3-2 victory over second-placed rivals Finland and she was a menace throughout for the Irish.
Neto gave Ireland a couple of nervy moments by drilling wide twice before the penalty arrived when Jetta Berrill was adjudged to have tripped Chelsea's Ana Borges in the box.
Although Arsenal's veteran stopper Byrne guessed the right way to keep the spot-kick out, she couldn't prevent the playmaker being first to react by heading the ball over the line.
IRELAND - E Byrne (Arsenal); J Berrill (UCD Waves), N Fahey (Chelsea Ladies), L Quinn (Eskilstuna United DFF), S Perry (Reading WFC); K Duggan (UCD Waves), D Caldwell (SC Sand); JA Russell (UCD Waves), R Littlejohn (Glasgow Celtic), K McCabe (Arsenal Ladies); A O'Gorman (UCD Waves).
Subs: C Shine (Glasgow City) for Russell (65), R McLaughlin (Peamount Utd) for Duggan (83), F O'Sullivan (California Storm) for Littlejohn (88).
PORTUGAL - P Morais; M Fidalgo, S Marisa, S Rebelo, A Borges; A Da Costa (T Pinto 65), D Silva, S Pires (F Pinto 83); A Leite (D Silva 90 mins), C Neto, V Marques.
Ref - E Azzopardi (MLT)