Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Nigel Worthington’s men draw on inner strength

Northern Ireland 0 Italy 0

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley battles Italy's Giorgio Chiellini
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley battles Italy's Giorgio Chiellini
Kyle Lafferty celebrates on the final whistle
Steven Davis battles Italy's Antonio Cassano
Chris Baird battles Italy's Stefano Mauri
Niall McGinn battles Italy's Domenico Criscito
Niall McGinn battles Italy's Domenico Criscito
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis battles Italy's Andrea Pirlo
Fans at WIndsor Park
Phillip Hughes and Steven Bryce from Milltown Dungannon
Kaleb Wilson
Taylors from Belfast: Stephen, Patton, Duncan and Iain
Mathew and David Herron with Jeff and Lauren Hagin
Northern Ireland fans Roger Irvine, Peter Swann, Ricky Neely and Ricky Parker
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley jumps with Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano
Norther Ireland's David Healy battles Italy's Daniele De Rossi
Northern Ireland v Italy
Northern Ireland fans
Northern Ireland fans
Norther Ireland fans Billy McAneney and his grand daughter Sarah Shields from Bangor
Steven Taylor and Nathan Wilkinson from Portadown
Northern Ireland v Italy
Mason King from Belfast
Tasha Blair from Limavady
Reeny Crawford from New Zealand and Dorothy Gibson from Lisburn
Matthew from Belfast
Stephen McCormick from Newtownards pictured before the match
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates on the final whistle
Northern Ireland's Stephen Craigan (centre) and Steven Davis with Italy's Antonio Cassano
Northern Ireland fans
Italy's Stefano Mauri Ê.
Stephen Craigan with Italy's Daniele De Rossi just before Northern Ireland claimed the ball hit the Italian for a handball
Drew Burgess (left) with his wife Julie (right) and Stuart Killen from Newtownards
Kilkeel Northern Ireland supporters club
Portavogie Northern Ireland supporters club
Zak Stewart from the Portavogie Northern Ireland supporters club
Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes had his family cheering him on during Friday nights Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy at Windsor Park. Daughters Keira (6), Leila (4) pictured with mum Sam walked out with dad before the big game
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates on the final whistle with Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates on the final whistle with Italy goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano
Kyle Lafferty celebrates on the final whistle
Grant McCann battles Italy's Mattia Cassani
Gareth McAuley and Kyle Lafferty celebrate on the final whistle
Nigel Worthington celebrates on the final whistle
Steven Davis of Northern Ireland gets past Andrea Pirlo of Italy
Stephen Craigan of Northern Ireland salutes the crowd
Niall McGinn of Northern Ireland is challenged by Claudio Marchisio of Italy
Claudio Marchisio of Italy controls the ball during the EURO 2012 Qualifier Group C match
Stefano Mauri of Italy and Chris Brunt of Northern Ireland compete during the Euro 2012 group C qualifying match
Andrea Pirlo of Italy is challenged
Warren Feeney of Northern Ireland challenges Giorgio Chiellini of Italy
Florian Solinas Newark who will be 9 tomorrow from Italy but who lives in Belfast receives his complimentary tickets to tonight's International football match at Windsor park from Podium for Sport Director Paul
Stephen Craigan of Northern Ireland sees his cross stopped by the arm of Daniele De Rossi of Italy
Warren Feeney and Stefano Mauri (right)

Friday nights are alright for Northern Ireland too.

There have been some wonderful Windsor Wednesdays over the last few years. Amazing atmospheres, massive results and occasons never to be forgotten.

And if Fridays carry on like this we'll grow to love them as well.

No wins to boast of yet, but a 0-0 draw with a nation that stood on top of the world just over four years ago wil do for starters.

Admittedly the Italy team that was on show last night is far removed from the 2006 world champions, both in personnel and performance, but they are still one of the top teams around and they couldn't find a way past little Northern Ireland.

A victory over the Italians would have more than matched the famous triumphs over England and Spain. In this Euro 2012 campaign though the point achieved at Windsor Park last night is of great value.

If it is followed up by victory in the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night and ultimately helps Northern Ireland make the finals in Poland and Ukraine it will be a priceless 0-0 draw.

It could have been three as well. David Healy came close to ending his two-year international goal drought with a first-half header and Steve Davis was denied a dramati last minute winner by Ialian goalkeeper Emilian Viviano.

And for the Italans — who lost 2-1 in their last visit to Windsor Park in 1958 — they are still looking for their first win in Belfast.

From early on it was clear that just like in Slovenia last month, when the campaign started in fantastic fashion with a 1-0 win, it was going to be a game where Northern Ireland were going to have to dig in, soak up pressure and be resolute in defence.

That's been the foundation to big results at Windsor Park before, so why change things now?

No way round, no way through, so the Italians began to go over the top in the search for an opening, chipping the ball towards Simone Pepe, whose effort had neither power or direction.

The 4-4-1-1 formation employed by Nigel Worthington, with Warren Feeney supporting Healy, became a 4-5-1 with Italy pushing Northern Ireland back into their own half.

The first great chance for Northern Ireland came on 31 minutes when after a great cross from Chris Brunt, David Healy failed to find the net. He got a clean enough connection but headed down and watched the ball bounce wide.

Worthy’s men were then denied a penalty when Daniele De Rossi had clearly handled an attempted cross from Stephen Craigan.

There was greater purpose from Northern Ireland initially after the break — more possession than at any time in the first-half and there was a hunger as well.

Italy were quick to recognise the threat though and quickly snuffed it out as they started to boss the game again. Milan ace Andrea Pirlo came deep looking for the ball, but still couldn't thread through a killer pass.

He did fire a shot across the goal on 70 minutes though that had everyone in green panicking.

Not content to settle for 0-0, Worthington first sent Kyle Lafferty and then Niall McGinn into the action in search of a goal. Corry Evans, the hero of Maribor, was to come later.

Feeney scored the last Northern Ireland goal at Windsor Park in April last year and he almost produced a carbon copy 18 minutes from time, heading Gareth McAuley's cross just off target.

Chances were coming at either end and only a superb save from Taylor kept Cassano's effort out of the net two minutes later.

As the clock ticked towards the whistle that would bring a draw which would please most of the Northern Ireland fans — if not all — Giuseppe Rossi connected with a deep cross and Taylor made another fine stop. The follow-up was put into the side netting.

The win that that would have seen Windsor Park erupt once more looked there for the taking as Davis bore down on goal as the watch ticked into the 90th minute.

He did everything right, other than produce a clinical finishand 0-0 it stayed.

Not the most famous of nights in recent history. Still, as a means to an end a point may mean a lot in 12 months time.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, McAuley, Hugh

es, Craigan, Jonathan Evans, Brunt, Baird, Davis, McCann, Feeney, Healy. Subs: Tuffey, Clinghan, Corry Evans, Lafferty, McGinn, Patterson, Gorman.

Italy: Viviano, Criscito, Bonucci, Chiellini, Cassani, De Rossi, Pirlo, Mauri, Pepe, Cassano, Borriello. Subs: Sirigu, Marchisio, Bovo, Palombo, Zambrotta, Pazzini, Rossi.

Referee: Tony Chapron (France)

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