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CR7 Treble Decides Thriller

Portugal's dramatic FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign continued as they needed a late Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to see off Northern Ireland 4-2 on Friday night.

Northern Ireland hit back after Bruno Alves' opener through goals from Gareth McAuley and Jamie Ward - with Helder Postiga sent off in between the strikes. Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty saw red in the second period and Real Madrid star Ronaldo would have the final say.

The eventful match took just 20 minutes to explode into life as Alves fired in the opening goal but McAuely hit back with a header at the other end in the 36th minute.

The tension claimed its first victim in the 43rd minute as Helder Postiga was shown a red card for squaring up with the Irish goalscorer.

The hosts made the most of their numerical advantage as Ward fired in their second - though it seemed that they were lucky to have the goal stand as the Irishman seemed to be offside.

The game was evened out on the hour mark as Brunt was sent off for his second bookable offence. That was the signal for Ronaldo to kick things into gear.

The attacker first buried a header off of a cross from Joao Moutinho before tucking away Fabio Coentrao's cross in the 77th minute.

The bad-tempered clash saw a third red card produced as Lafferty was sent off for a tackle from behind and Ronaldo completed the win three minutes later with a free-kick from the edge of the area.

The strikes ensured that Ronaldo went clear as Portugal’s second highest goalscorer, ahead of legend Eusebio but four goals behind Pauleta.

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