Northern Ireland 1 - 1 Luxembourg: Dean Shiels strike gains point
NORTHERN IRELAND had to accept a demoralising home draw against Luxembourg after a match they dominated ended with the visitors scoring a heavily deflected equaliser in the 86th minute.
Scorers: Northern Ireland - Shiels (14); Luxembourg - Mota (86)
The evening had started so promisingly for Michael O’Neill’s side, with Dean Shiels claiming his first international goal with a deft finish in the 14th minute.
The hosts had nearly all of the meaningful chances thereafter, with three efforts disallowed by the officials and Chris Brunt hitting the post, only for Daniel Da Mota’s shot to squirm home via Ryan McGivern’s shoulder.
Coming on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Russia, Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying hopes are already hanging by a thread.
Having set his team out for containment in Moscow, with Kyle Lafferty often stranded at the head of a defensive 4-5-1 formation, O’Neill selected a more attack-minded XI in Belfast. Shiels returned in the number 10 role, with Shane Ferguson back on the left side of midfield and the more aggressive McGivern replacing Craig Cathcart behind him.
Northern Ireland started with real purpose, almost scoring in the first minute.
The chance came from a corner, won after good interplay between Lafferty and Shiels.
Brunt floated it to West Brom team-mate Gareth McAuley who, after winning the header, directed the ball straight at the goalkeeper.
A loose pass from McGivern gifted Aurelien Joachim space to shoot, only for Jonny Evans to make the block. Then Northern Ireland took the lead through Shiels.
Somewhat surprisingly Evans played the role of creator, surging upfield and exchanging neat passes with the Rangers man.
Evans’ second pass cut open the defence and Shiels lifted his shot deftly over the oncoming Jonathan Joubert.
The hosts had a second effort disallowed, Lafferty stroking a fine effort into the top corner after good work from Chris Baird, only to be pulled up for offside.
In the second half, the home side had a third effort struck off by the officials on the hour, Lafferty in an offside position when he sidefooted Ferguson’s cross home.
As time ran out, the sucker punch arrived.
With too many green shirts committed forward, Luxembourg surged up the pitch and a shot opened up for Da Mota.
His effort appeared to be heading wide until it took a huge deflection off McGivern’s shoulder to leave Roy Carroll stranded.
The Luxembourg bench celebrated emphatically, leaving the home fans to boo their players off at the final whistle as the Northern Irish find themselves second bottom of the group, five points adrift of leaders Russia.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West