Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 dream ends with defeat from Wales
Wales emerged from the battle of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland as 1-0 winners to advance to the last eight at Euro 2016 courtesy of a Gareth McAuley own goal.
The West Brom defender turned Gareth Bale's delicious cross past his own goalkeeper with 15 minutes remaining at the Parc des Princes to end the run of a Northern Irish team competing at their first ever European Championship finals.
Chris Coleman's men, who had a first-half Aaron Ramsey goal correctly ruled out for offside, are also at their maiden Euros and will now face either Hungary or Belgium in a Lille quarter-final next Friday.
Always proud of our boys. #GAWA till I die— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) June 25, 2016
So immensely proud of the way Norn Iron played today and throughout the #EURO2016. The lads played like lions. Heads held high. GAWA!— gary lightbody (@garysnowpatrol) June 25, 2016
Irlanda del Norte eliminada de la Euro. Siempre nos quedará Will Grigg's on fire!— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) June 25, 2016
Wales were beginning to up the tempo while the Northern Irish midfield tired and Ramsey in particular was enjoying a greater influence.
And it was no surprise to see them beat McGovern during that period, even if the goal came courtesy of a Northern Ireland player.
Ramsey knocked the ball to Bale out on the left flank and his enticing delivery was aimed at Gareth McAuley and Robson-Kanu, with the former poking into his own net before the cross reached the Wales substitute.
Robson-Kanu would almost certainly have scored anyway, such was the quality of Bale's ball in, and the Welsh crowd roared into life with a chorus of 'Don't take me home' ahead of the final 15 minutes.
O'Neill brought on Niall McGinn and Josh Magennis in quick succession, the latter coming on for a disconsolate McAuley as the 36-year-old trudged off in what may prove to be his final cap before retirement.
Northern Ireland player ratings:
MICHAEL McGOVERN: Was nowhere near as busy as he had been against Germany in the same stadium and had no chance with the decisive own goal. 7
AARON HUGHES: Surprisingly used as a right-wing back, the 36-year-old offered little going forward but he coped with Bale and others well enough. 6
GARETH McAULEY: Ultimately it was his own goal that decided the tie, though he did little else wrong and had to stop Gareth Bale's cross reaching Hal Robson-Kanu for the cruel moment. 6
CRAIG CATHCART: Part of a typically solid Northern Irish backline, although he was fortunate Sam Vokes headed wide when he lost him. 7
JONNY EVANS: Another colossal performance from Northern Ireland's best outfield player at the tournament. Did not deserve to be a loser. 8
CORRY EVANS: Popped up everywhere in midfield in an energetic display which was only outdone among his colleagues by his brother's own showing. 8
STEVEN DAVIS: Would have enjoyed seeing plenty of the ball having previously chased others in France and he helped drive Northern Ireland forward. 7
OLIVER NORWOOD: His set-piece deliveries were poor, though he was industrious in the midfield before tiring and being replaced. 7
STUART DALLAS: Almost opened the scoring with a swerving first-half effort that was saved by Wayne Hennessey and bombed up and down as usual on the left. 7
JAMIE WARD: Deployed as a strike partner, rather than out wide and he never really got going, though he did test Hennessey with a rising try before being substituted. 6
KYLE LAFFERTY: Recalled to the starting line-up and gave everything he had, holding the ball up well, yet he had no sniffs of goal. 7
Conor Washington (on for Ward, 69): Dropped for Lafferty and failed to have any influence even after Northern Ireland fell behind. 5
Niall McGinn (on for Norwood, 79): Not the super-sub on this occasion as he saw his late crosses instantly cut out by the Welsh full-backs. 5
Josh Magennis (on for McAuley, 84): Had created the second goal against Ukraine but there were to be no late heroics here. 5
Belfast Telegraph Digital