Cristiano Ronaldo vents his frustrations as Portugal are held by the Republic of Ireland.
Cristiano Ronaldo vents his frustrations as Portugal are held by the Republic of Ireland.

Portugal were held to a goalless draw by the Republic of Ireland to leave Sunday's clash with Serbia as the decider for top spot in World Cup qualifying Group A.

Fernando Santos' men had scored 16 goals during their five-game winning streak across all competitions but could only muster three shots on target during a frustrating outing in Dublin.

Cristiano Ronaldo went the closest, though even the all-time leading scorer in men's international football could not break the deadlock in Thursday's clash.

Portugal, who had Pepe dismissed late on for two bookable offences, and Serbia both sit on 17 points with one game remaining as the latter travel to Lisbon for a winner-takes-all decider.

Andre Silva forced the first save of the contest from Gavin Bazunu before Seamus Coleman's excellent last-ditch block denied Ronaldo as the visitors dominated the early proceedings.

However, the Republic of Ireland responded well and should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time but Chiedozie Ogbene could only head over from close range.

Stephen Kenny's men continued industriously after the interval and almost punished Matheus Nunes' concentration lapse when Josh Cullen curled into Rui Patricio's hands.

Ronaldo, who later fired narrowly off target, then nodded wide following Silva's cross before the hosts saw Enda Stevens whip over from Ogbene's inviting delivery.

The visitors, who had Pepe dismissed after catching Callum Robinson with his hand, managed to hold on for a point despite the hosts thinking they had found a late winner through Matt Doherty, Will Keane's foul on Patricio cutting short the celebrations.

What does it mean? Selecao stutter with game in hand

Portugal had embarked on a five-game winning run across all competitions but struggled with their game in hand against the Republic of Ireland, who have only one qualifying win to their name.

Serbia were the only side that had managed to take a point off Santos' side but Kenny's men managed to hold the free-scoring visitors to a draw, leaving Sunday's clash with Dragan Stojkovic's team to decide who wins Group A.

Chiedozie causes chaos

Ogbene should have given the Republic of Ireland the lead in the first half but that did not taint an otherwise effective attacking showing from the 24-year-old.

The Rotherham United winger completed nine of his 10 passes in the opposition half while providing two key passes as he dragged Portugal's defence all over the place.

Disappointing Danilo lives dangerously

Pepe may attract criticism for a poor performance but Danilo Pereira endured a torrid outing against Ogbene.

The Paris Saint-Germain man – who won less than half of his 12 duels - somehow survived until the 70th minute before being cautioned, one of a joint game-high three fouls the centre-back made.

What's next?

The top two meet on the final matchday as Portugal host Serbia on Sunday, while the Republic of Ireland visit Luxembourg on the same day.



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