Oxtoby rues Northern Ireland's mistakes in Portugal loss

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Northern Ireland boss Tanya Oxtoby conceded that her side were simply undone by a more clinical Portugal team after their 4-0 defeat in Leiria on Friday night.

Group leaders Portugal, who have now won their opening three games took advantage of a slow start by Northern Ireland to open the scoring through a Carole Costa penalty.

Substitute Catarina Armado found the net either side of a Lucia Alves double to seal the victory and Oxtoby acknowledged the ruthless nature of Francisco Neto's side set the two teams apart.

"When you play good teams like Portugal and you switch off for small moments in the game, they are going to punish you and I thought they did that super effectively," she said.

Oxtoby expressed her frustration with Northern Ireland's defending from the free-kick from which Rebecca McKenna fouled Alves and the referee awarded a penalty, especially after they had repelled numerous forays forward from Portugal in the early stages of the game.

"We are disappointed it came from a set piece, I don’t think we were organised at the second phase [of the free-kick], and we give away a penalty," she explained.

Despite the manner of the goals, Oxtoby was keen to praise her side's spirited display to continue battling to the end.

"I’m super proud of the girls, for large parts of the game we executed what we wanted to do, and it is a really positive performance.

"After the first goal we were still in the game even though we were under pressure, which was a positive for us, because at that point it was a bit nervy, and the crowd got behind them, but we rode it out really well."

Now attentions must turn quickly to the second game of the double-header against Portugal at Mourneview Park on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland remain second in Group B3, a point ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina despite tasting defeat for the first time and Oxtoby knows that her side will be desperate to bounce back from a testing evening in Leiria.

"We always knew this was going to be really tough away from home, but there are plenty of learning opportunities from the game.

"This group is tough, and we won’t roll over. We're a team on a journey, but we’re going in the right direction and we're looking forward to getting back and playing in front of our home crowd."

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