Belfast Telegraph

I was sorry to give referee decision to make: Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley admitted that he said sorry to his team-mates in the dressing room after a late penalty was awarded against him to earn Wales a 1-1 draw.

With Northern Ireland leading, McAuley challenged Simon Church in the 89th minute and when the forward dropped to the turf, referee Steven McLean handed the Welsh a spot-kick which was converted by Church.

McAuley thought it was a harsh call at the time, but was big enough to apologise to his pals afterwards.

"I'm not sure it was a penalty, but I said sorry to the boys in the dressing room because I gave the referee a decision to make and unfortunately it went against us," stated the West Brom star.

Earlier Craig Cathcart had given Northern Ireland the lead 15 minutes into the second half, in which manager Michael O'Neill had decided to switch his system to 4-5-1/4-3-3 after adopting a 3-5-2 formation in the first period.

Cathcart said: "We had a difficult first half when we came under a little bit of pressure but we managed to see that first half out. I think the change of formation probably helped us and for me to get the first goal was great. It was just disappointing it wasn't the winner in the end."

The draw equalled Northern Ireland's previous record of nine unbeaten games in-a-row. The chance to break it will come on Monday at home to Slovenia.

Cathcart added: "We want to keep breaking records. We have managed to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals, are on a really good run of form and we want to take it into the next friendly and the tournament as well."

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