Northern Ireland hold Czechs to goalless draw


Prague (AFP) – Northern Ireland opened their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign with a goalless draw against Group C rivals the Czech Republic in Prague on Sunday.

Playing their first competitive game since their 1-0 defeat to Wales in the last-16 phase of Euro 2016, Northern Ireland relied on solid defence and breakaways throughout the game.

In their best scoring chance of a rather dull first half, Paddy McNair saw his low shot stopped by Czech keeper Tomas Vaclik.

The Czechs never managed to put the defensive visitors under real pressure during the first 45 minutes.

Pavel Kaderabek, Milan Skoda and Vladimir Darida all sent shots wide, leaving Northern Ireland keeper Michael McGovern with little to do.

The hosts created better chances early in the second half, but Vaclav Kadlec sent his low shot straight at McGovern after three Czechs had stormed into the visitors’ box.

Czech winger Filip Novak then squandered his team’s best chance as he blasted wide from five yards, while Ladislav Krejci and Jan Kopic both missed the target in the closing stages.

Germany lead Group C after beating Norway 3-0 at Oslo, ahead of Azerbaijan who won 1-0 at San Marino.

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