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Portugal settles for disappointing draw

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PORTO, Portugal (AP)

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A late equalizer by Helder Postiga earned Portugal a 1-1 draw against Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifying game Tuesday, sparing the home team's blushes as Cristiano Ronaldo racked up his 100th international appearance.

Postiga rescued his team with his 23rd international goal in the 79th minute, tapping in from short range just as the Portuguese were poised to record their second defeat in a row following last week's 1-0 loss in Russia.

Niall McGinn put Northern Ireland ahead from a counterattack on the half-hour, and the visitors looked likely to upset its more celebrated opponent.

Ronaldo, who became only the third Portuguese player to collect 100 caps and is the youngest from his country to reach that milestone, had few chances in a match in which the Euro 2012 semifinalist was again uninspired in attack.

''It's a bad result,'' Portugal coach Paulo Bento said as his team fell five points behind group leader Russia.

Portugal has seven points and is joint-second with Israel. Northern Ireland won its second point and is fourth.

Ronaldo looked to be in a scoring mood and had two shots in the first five minutes.

But in a game that produced few thrills on a rainy night in northern Portugal, the visitor maintained a threat, especially through Oliver Norwood's high crosses into area for Kyle Lafferty.

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Portugal looked set for some relief in the 36th when defender Craig Cathcart almost scored an own goal as his clearance ricocheted off the visitor's bar.

Portugal pressed forward after the interval, Ruben Micael testing Roy Carroll with a long shot and the goalkeeper denying Ronaldo on the hour. The Real Madrid forward also came close in the 70th.

But it was again a mishit clearance, this time by Steven Davis in the 63rd, that came closest to leveling the score as the Portuguese effort faded.

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