Euro 2012 qual. - Northern Ireland hold Italy to draw

Fri, 08 Oct 22:09:00 2010

Northern Ireland grabbed a famous 0-0 draw with Italy at Windsor Park in Euro 2012 Group C which leaves among the group's early pacesetters.

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Nigel Worthington will reflect on David Healy's golden chance after 31 minutes which should have put the home side ahead and could have won the game

Chris Brunt swung over a delicious cross from the right wing. It fell over the head of Giorgio Chiellini six yards out and Healy, unmarked, headed wide when it seemed easier to score.

Italy striker Marco Boriello nearly made the Sunderland player pay instantly when the visitors had their best chance of the half.

Boriello chased a long ball forward and out-paced Aaron Hughes.

His shot from 15 yards was brilliantly saved to his left by Northern Ireland's Maik Taylor and Antonio Cassano's follow-up curled inches wide.

The match could have been different if the French referee had spotted a clear handball by Giorgio Chiellini after 18 minutes.

Warren Feeney chased a long ball over the top and the Juventus defender mistimed his jump. In doing so he handled the ball and punched it out towards the touchline.

Despite huge protests the French officials said nothing.

Emiliano Viviano, making his second appearance in goal for Italy, got caught underneath another Northern Irish long ball after 20 minutes.

But Gareth McAuley could not capitalise and the goalkeeper was able to grab the ball at the second attempt.

With 10 minutes to go in the first half Stefano Mauri had a header from six yards straight at Taylor from Cassano's left-wing cross.

Andrea Pirlo nearly caught Taylor out within minutes of the restart but his 40 free-kick was easily saved.

With 20 minutes remaining Simone Pepe had a difficult chance when Cassano's cross found the midfielder unmarked at the far-post but he could only flash an effort across goal.

Feeney sent a glancing header from 18 yards over the bar shortly afterwards.

Italy's best chance of the half came with just four minutes to go. Cassano again was the provider.

His cross this time found Giampaolo Pazzini at the far post but the substitute headed the ball down and wide from six yards.

Northern Ireland could have grabbed victory right at the very end.

Steven Davis burst into the Italian penalty area and despite the close attentions of Pirlo fired in a shot that Viviano turned away at his near post.

The result leaves Northern Ireland with four points from two games with another three points on offer against Faroe Islands on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Group C Slovenia beat Faroe Islands 5-1 and Estonia beat Serbia 3-1.

Mark Applin / Eurosport

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