01/05/1957 Belfast Portugal 3-0 Billy Simpson, Jimmy McIlroy pen, Tommy Casey
Harry Gregg, Willie Cunningham, Alf McMichael, Danny Blanchflower, Wilbur Cush, Tommy Casey, Billy Bingham, Billy Simpson, Eddie McMorran, Jimmy McIlroy, Bertie Peacock
The scoreline reflected the match itself, as Northern Ireland easily defeated the Portuguese on the road to World Cup qualification in Sweden. The 3-0 scoreline was the highest scored by an Irish Football Association side since Ireland defeated Wales 3-2 in 1936. Northern Ireland had actually had the ball in the net on three further occasions during the game, so the scoreline should have been much greater.
The first goal came in the 22nd minute after Jimmy McIlroy was fouled 25 yards out from the goal. The free kick was taken by Bertie Peacock who passed the ball to Tommy Casey whose shot went high into the net beyond the Portuguese goalkeeper Antonio Gomes.
Gomes turned the ball round the post from a Wilbur Cush shot later in the game, but Northern Ireland’s second came on the hour mark when another free kick this time taken by Willie Cunningham. Billy Simpson met the ball in the air and headed into the net.
Northern Ireland’s third goal came from the penalty spot after 76 minutes. With Eddie McMorran drifting in from the left-wing, the Portuguese goalkeeper Gomes came off his line to block a shot, but his dive at McMorran’s feet injured him and he writhed in pain. Still Gomes attempted to push the ball to his teammate Jose Maria Pedroto at right-half but McMorran was able to intercept and hit a goal bound shot. However, Marques Virgilio Mendes stopped the ball with his hand preventing a goal. The referee subsequently awarded Northern Ireland a penalty kick.
Jimmy McIlroy took the penalty but fainted a shot and instead passed the ball backwards to his captain Danny Blanchflower. The referee ordered the penalty to be retaken, as he has judged Blanchflower to have moved into the penalty area before McIlroy had touched the ball. On the second attempt McIlroy took a customary penalty kick and scored.
Northern Ireland were well on their way to qualifying for their first World Cup.