Belfast Telegraph

Bubble is not burst as players remain defiant in defeat

By Paul Ferguson

Corry Evans admitted Northern Ireland are still in a great place for Euro 2016 qualification — despite losing their unbeaten record 2-0 to Romania last night in Bucharest.

Two goals from Romania right back Paul Papp broke the hearts of 1000 travelling Northern Ireland fans inside the Arena Nationala and allowed the Tricolorii to move top of Group F.

Northern Ireland had to withstand a huge amount of pressure and were continually on the back foot.

But having accumulated nine points from four games and sitting in second place in the group, Evans, who replaced injured Steven Davis in the middle of park last night, says Northern Ireland should be proud of their efforts during the last three months.

“I don’t think we were at our best and that’s disappointing because we came into this game with so much confidence,” conceded Evans.

“Everybody in the dressing room is absolutely gutted and exhausted. We gave our all but it just wasn’t good enough against the best team in the group.

“We shouldn’t be too downhearted though.

“We still have nine points from four games and that is terrific. It just would have been so nice to build on our excellent wins because I really do believe we can play better.

“So what we’ll do is keep our heads up high. We know we could have played better but now it’s a case of moving on.”

“Now we must look forward to the next game against Finland in March.”

Evans admitted that even though Romania were missing five key players they are still far the best team in the group and favourites for top spot in Group F.

He added: “They moved it about quickly and defended very well.

“They put us under a lot of pressure and we were forced on the back foot for large parts of the match but I honestly believed we were going to hold out for draw and a great point.

“Coming to somewhere like this was always going to be difficult and obviously it was made even harder with the likes of Steven Davis and Jamie out.

“We had to defend for large periods tonight and we then struggled to get the ball to Kyle.

“However, we should be proud of ourselves because I don’t think we could have ever envisaged that we’d have nine points after four games and the fact Greece lost to the Faroes will also hopefully help us.”

Evans has played two qualifiers against Hungary and Greece on the right of midfield but last night was pushed into the centre in the absence of Davis.

“I thought I did alright in the centre — I got the ball, tried to shut up their number 10, as that was the role I was asked to do, and at times I think I did that. When Niall came off I moved out to the right and that of course is where I’ve played before against Hungary and Greece.

Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes said: “It was difficult and we knew it would be.

“We defended well enough but were not good enough in possession as we have been in recent games. Their movement was good and they are a strong technical side. We are still in a fantastic position and we just need to learn from tonight.

“We didn’t really feel the expectation. We were not complacent and never thought it would be easy. There are times when you must dig in and there are still plenty of games left in the group.

“The Faroes result shows how difficult those games are and we will not be taking those games lightly.”

Belfast Telegraph

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