Austria bring Northern Ireland back down to earth

London (AFP) – Austria shattered Northern Ireland’s positive mood with a 1-0 win in Belfast in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday.

Northern Ireland were back in action three days after beating Bosnia on penalties in their dramatic Euro 2020 play-off semi-final on Thursday.

After keeping alive their hopes of reaching Euro 2020 next year, Northern Ireland were hoping to maintain the feelgood factor in the Nations League.

Instead, they lost for the sixth time in seven matches in this competition.

The presence of 600 members of the Green and White Army inside Windsor Park could not rouse Northern Ireland as they were comfortably outplayed by the hosts, who won through Michael Gregoritsch’s header.

Northern Ireland were second best to Austria almost throughout as Franco Foda’s side passed up several chances to inflict a more convincing defeat.

Austria were on top almost immediately as they bossed midfield and created chances throughout the first half.

The almost relentless pressure told just before the break when Martin Hinteregger’s sweeping cross from the left found Gregoritsch who headed past Michael McGovern with ease.

Northern Ireland’s first real sight of goal did not come until the 68th minute when Jonny Evans got a glancing header on to Paddy McNair’s cross, but directed it straight at Pavao Pervan.

The hosts sent on Conor Washington, Liam Boyce and Josh Magennis in the latter stages but service to the front men did not improve.

The only opening came in stoppage time when a quick free-kick freed Boyce, but the hero of Thursday’s shoot-out fired narrowly wide.

Defeat means Northern Ireland remain without a win in the short history of this competition heading into Wednesday’s clash with Norway in Oslo.

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