Portugal have been given an absolutely massive boost in their campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup by Northern Ireland, who turned in a surprising performance on Wednesday. Russia were abysmal, failing to register a shot on target in Northern Ireland's 1-0 win. This result solidifies Portugal's place at the top of Group F, keeps Northern Ireland's faint hopes of making a playoff alive and puts Israel in control of their own destiny.
The hosts took advantage of a lethargic Russia side at the end of a dull first half, putting together an impressive direct attack to score the game's only goal. Just two minutes after Jamie Ward hit the post from the edge of the box, Northern Ireland surged forward again and found a goal through Martin Paterson. He got on the end of a cross by Niall McGinn, who won a physical battle on the right flank just to get the ball in, and Paterson outmuscled his defender to nod the ball into the back of the net.
Paterson nearly doubled his team's lead in the 58th minute on a set piece when he poked home from six yards, but he was a step past the last defender and his goal was disallowed for offside. Remarkably, that was the biggest event of the second half. Roy Carroll was never bothered in the Northern Ireland net.