NI's dream of Regions Cup glory ended with defeat
NI Eastern Region 1 - Zagreb 3
Northern Ireland's Regions Cup dream ended yesterday afternoon when they went down 3-1 to Zagreb.
After an impressive 2-2 draw against the German representatives Wurttemburg on Friday night, Harry McConkey's men needed to at least draw with the Croatians at Richmond Park if they were to keep their hopes of reaching Saturday's final alive.
Unfortunately for the Eastern Region side, they were easily dispatched by Zagreb, who are on course for the decider after collecting six points from their first two games.
They took an early lead when skipper Zeljko Stulec shot low through the legs of Carrick Rangers goalkeeper Brian Neeson with just eight minutes played and, though Stephen Murray, Richard Thompson and Marcus Dallas - brother of Brentford star Stuart - all had chances to equalise for Northern Ireland's amateurs, substitute Arjan Rexhepi increased the Croatian advantage on 67 minutes.
Northern Ireland found a way back into the game in the 77th minute when Warrenpoint Town's new signing Stephen Murray beat Nevistic from the penalty spot after Amateur League star Colm O'Riordan was taken down in the box by Filip Rihtar.
But the much stronger Croats sealed the win on 83 minutes with a third goal direct from Karamatic's well-struck free-kick that went in off the far post to leave Neeson flat-footed.
NI Eastern Region: Neeson (Carrick), Montgomery (Armagh), McMillan (H&W Welders), Doyle (Carrick), Buckley (Ards), Dallas (Loughgall), Kelly (Armagh), O'Riordan (Immaculata), Copper (Ballyclare), Murray (Warrenpoint), Thompson (Dollingstown). Subs: McMurray (H&W Welders) for Doyle (46 mins), Armstrong (H&W Welders) for Dallas (77 mins), McWilliams (PSNI) for Thompson (86 mins).