Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland would have played better in a competitive match: Alan Mannus

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus has claimed that Northern Ireland were not in the right mindset for their game against Croatia because it was just a friendly.

Michael O'Neill's men surrendered their unbeaten run at Windsor Park after losing to the Croatians. But stopper Mannus, who played all 90 minutes of the match in the absence of Michael McGovern, said they struggled due to the nature of the match.

"If it was competitive I think everything would have been approached differently," the St Johnstone man admitted.

"Their play was top class and it was a difficult game for us with it being a friendly. It's not the same for the players as it is for a competitive game.

"They were excellent throughout the game, their movement and their passing was just miles ahead of us I thought."

The 34-year also reflected on one of Northern Ireland's worst defensive performances in several years after they conceded three goals, their heaviest defeat since their 6-0 defeat to Holland in 2012.

A defensive mix up let Mandzukic open the scoring in just the ninth minute, and then Cop stole in unmarked to add the second. The game was capped off by a fantastic strike by man of the match Kramaric who hammered home a 25-yard effort.

Mannus confessed they were disappointed with how they performed, but still believed there were positives to be taken.

"It is disappointing from our perspective that we conceded three goals and we didn't score obviously," Mannus admitted.

"But there are still positives to take - some of the guys got game time that don't normally, like myself."

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