Euro 2012 qual. - Faroese dent N. Ireland's chances

Tue, 12 Oct 17:56:00 2010

Northern Ireland's good work in their opening two Euro 2012 qualifiers was undone as they could only manage a 1-1 draw in the Faroe Islands.

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Nigel Worthington's men started Group C with a 1-0 win in Slovenia and a 0-0 draw at home to Italy; but they had to come from behind just to get a point from the plucky Islanders.

The Faroese, managed by former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr, took a shock lead on the hour mark as Christian Lamhauge Holst took advantage of some hesitant defending to sweep in a low effort.

A low strike from Kyle Lafferty crept in to level matters in the 76th minute but Northern Ireland couldn't then turn their dominance into a winner before the end and in a tough group that also contains the likes of Serbia and an up-and-coming Estonian side, the two dropped points could cost the Irish dearly come the final standings.

The Irish were the better side in the first half and enjoyed the bulk of the possession but they were still far from dominant against a side that were well organised and reasonably ambitious themselves when going forward.

The Irish had their best early moment in the 19th minute when Lafferty, in for the out-of-form David Healy, worked himself some space outside the area before firing a blazing shot that 40-year-old keeper Jakup Mikkelsen did superbly well to tip over.

Lafferty was a constant menace for the Faroese defence and had four efforts on target in the first-half; however with the exception of that one powerful drive, his other three – two headers and a shot – were all tame and easily saved.

Lafferty almost deflected a Jonny Evans shot on target too, Evans put a close range header over, and Gareth McAuley put a header into the side netting all before half-time; but the Faroese looked lively on the counter attack themselves, with a shot on target from Simun Samuelsen being their best moment.

The Irish started to create better chances after the break. Steven Davis cut open the defence in the 49th minute but Niall McGinn could only fire into the side-netting despite rounding former Partick Thistle keeper Mikkelsen.

The veteran stopper then did superbly well to deny Healy who had come for Feeney by stopping a low snap shot from the edge of the area, and then a Lafferty header that looked bound for the top corner.

Then the Faroese took a shock lead on the hour. The ball fell to the feet of the powerful Holst in the area. It looked like Stephen Craigan had him wrapped up, but Holst hung onto to the ball and then managed to turn Aaron Hughes just enough to get a shooting angle before drilling a low shot into the corner of the net.

That rocked the Irish and they took a while to get their composure back, although Chris Baird should have equalised in the 64th minute but he put a free header wide after a great Chris Brunt cross..

It was not until the 76th minute that the equaliser did finally come. Lafferty skipped by a few players on the edge of the box before playing it to Brunt – the West Brom man checked it back to the Rangers' striker and his low drive from the edge of the area just crept into the corner of the net.

The Irish pressed for a winner before the end but their crossing was poor all day, and the Faroese defenders put their bodies on the line to ensure they would pick up a famous point.

Northern Ireland's next fixture is away in Serbia next March and a defeat there could see the, in a deep hole after having previously looked so strong after their opening two game.

Seán Fay / Eurosport

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