Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland edged out despite top display as Germany relieved to win

Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany

Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland have been edged out 2-0 by Germany despite a stunning performance in the Euro 2020 qualifier in Belfast.

It was a remarkable display against the visiting giants, who seemed spooked by a raucous Windsor Park at kick-off and whose time-wasting efforts told the story of their full-time relief.

Ultimately, however, it was a missed opportunity. Northern Ireland spurned two gilt-edged chances during a high-energy first half and Germany managed to produce the moments of magic as Marcel Halstenberg netted on 48 minutes and Serge Gnabry scored an injury-time clincher; a cruel lesson at the highest level.

It's a display that should give Michael O'Neill's men much confidence going into the final three games, when, barring huge upsets by Estonia or Belarus, they need to either take four points from the Netherlands or win twice to secure automatic qualification.

The hosts' high-energy, high-pressing efforts got the fans on their feet and were handsomely rewarded throughout the first half as Germany's defence seemed, at best, uncomfortable passing the ball out from the back - a tactic they stubbornly stuck to regardless of its less than convincing execution.

And it yielded two moments that should really have led to goals.

Conor Washington had a great chance to open the scores on seven minutes when Corry Evans won possession high up the pitch, the ball shooting out to the lone striker who was through on goal but saw his one-on-one saved by the massive Manuel Neuer.

Was that the big chance gone? No, but it would soon pass Northern Ireland by.

A minute before the break, Stuart Dallas played a neat one-two with Corry Evans, beating the full-back after a throw-in on the left and delivering a telling low cross. A few yards from an open net, it seemed a certain goal for Washington but the Hearts forward couldn't convert as he fell to the ground trying to hook an effort at goal.

Insult could easily have been added to injury just seconds later as Germany raced up the pitch only for Bailey Peacock-Farrell to stop Timo Werner's first-time shot one-on-one.

Should have been us: Northern Ireland missed some huge chances before Marcel Halstenberg opened the scoring for Germany.
Should have been us: Northern Ireland missed some huge chances before Marcel Halstenberg opened the scoring for Germany.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany Mathias Ginter in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
It was so close but yet so far for Conor Washington and Northern Ireland.
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Conor Washington during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany Manuel Neuer in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany Manuel Neuer in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn and Germany Niklas Sule in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany Mathias Ginter in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas acknowledges the fans after the final whistle during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday September 9, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, No commercial use without prior permission.
Germany's midfielder Serge Gnabry celebrates scoring their second goal during the the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park in Belfast on September 9, 2019. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Germany's midfielder Serge Gnabry (C) celebrates scoring their second goal during the the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park in Belfast on September 9, 2019. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Germany's midfielder Serge Gnabry celebrates scoring their second goal during the the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Northern Ireland and Germany at Windsor Park in Belfast on September 9, 2019. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington and Germany Mathias Ginter in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans and Germany Joshua Kimmich in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn and Germany Niklas Sule in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair and Germany Serge Gnabry in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair and Germany Niklas Sule in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans and Germany Toni Kroos in action at Windsor Park on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte with Germany's Joshua Kimmich during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis with Germany's Julian Brandt during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Micheal O'Neill during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier against Germany at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Germany manager Joachim Low during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Conor Washington goes close to scoring during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte with Germany's Joshua Kimmich during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Steven Davis with Germany's Julian Brandt during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 09th September 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Micheal O'Neill during Monday nights European Championship Qualifier against Germany at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell was on top form against Germany.
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier German fans join in the NI supporters singing during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier National Anthems sung before KO during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland supporters during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland supporters during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker - Belfast - -09/09/2019. Northern Ireland v Germany Euro Qualifiers Northern Ireland Stuart Dallas In action during tonights game at Windsor Park. . Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte takes on Germany's Joshua Kimmich during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas can't believe he missed during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 9-9-19 Northern Ireland v Germany - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland supporters during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 9th September 2019 UEFA EURO Qualifier Group C at the National Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast. Northern Ireland Vs Germany. Germany's Marcel Halstenberg celebrates after scoring. Photo by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye.
Northern Ireland fans arrive at Windsor Park ahead of tonights game with Germany on September 9th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

In between, the Germans did enjoy a long spell of possession but couldn't make it count as Peacock-Farrell managed to get down to stop Niklas Sule converting at the back post while Craig Cathcart scooped a dangerous Timo Werner cross over his own crossbar and a couple of handball appeals fell on deaf ears.

Whatever Joachim Low said to his under-performing side at the break, and it certainly wouldn't have been pretty, it worked a treat.

It was a totally different German side that emerged for the second half, packed with purpose, speed, determination; everything their first half lacked.

Such was their attacking impetus, Bailey Peacock Farrell had already made a big save from wing-back Lukas Klostermann by the time the left-sided player's 48th minute cross was lashed into the top corner by opposite wing-back Marcel Halstenberg.

It was a blow that, for the first time, silenced the home support and allowed the German fans to be heard; a fine time for the RB Leipzig's first international goal.

In the next ten minutes, it seemed that Michael O'Neill's men could be blown away. They would have been, had it not been for Burnley stopper Peacock-Farrell, who pushed Marco Reus' free-kick round the post and saved twice from Timo Werner, most impressively tipping a low shot wide of the bottom corner.

Northern Ireland weathered the storm and eventually set about finding the leveller, introducing former Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte. On the right-wing, he caused goal-scorer Halstenberg a bundle of problems, not least when he burst past his marker and cut the ball back for Stuart Dallas to fire a first-time shot inches wide.

There were appeals for a penalty, too, when Paddy McNair seemed to have a think before going down once he seemed to be kicked on the shin in the area. The referee hesitated, but waved his arms rather than pointing to the spot.

That would be Northern Ireland's final big chance of what had been an enthralling evening.

Gnabry would go on to net from a narrow angle in the last minute of added time, harsh on Northern Ireland who had pushed their visitors all the way with a truly top performance.

It's a chance gone but now bring on the Netherlands.

Here's the game as it happened:

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