Belfast Telegraph

Paterson and Davis offer no excuses after dreadful display

By Laure James

Northern Ireland players have unanimously held their hands up and vowed to shoulder the blame for last night's atrocious performance against Luxembourg.

Void of leadership, quality, common sense and shape, Michael O'Neill's men disintegrated and now recognise they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Huddersfield Town ace Martin Paterson trudged out of the dressing room, struggling to justify the value of a week's worth of preparation.

He said: "I would love to defend it and say it wasn't a waste of time, that it's been important, but after a performance and a result like that and getting beaten by Luxembourg, we haven't really got a leg to stand on.

"We're not happy. The performance was under par for us over the past couple of internationals and we didn't perform to that level which we have done, so we are obviously disappointed as a team.

"There will be people and the press who say that we're under par and we can't really disagree with that.

"The players will have to take greater responsibility for that than Michael. I can only really speak for myself; as we come together six or seven times a year you can't speak for a whole group so I can only really take it upon myself.

"We set up vertically and the preparation was fine, we were all fit and healthy to go and it was down to us and we didn't perform. You can't question the management or the team selection in that at all, it was literally all down to performance levels."

Skipper Steven Davis admitted O'Neill was seething by what he saw.

The Southampton midfielder said: "Michael was furious, and that's understandable.

"Some words were said and they are to stay in the dressing room. Honestly, I am finding it really hard to talk about it this soon after the game, I am just so frustrated."

Davis said his role as international captain was irrelevant and that he is just as responsible as any individual player. "Is it any different for me as captain? No, I think just generally as a player I wasn't at it. I was about half a yard off," he added.

"I don't think there were any positives, it was a totally unacceptable performance.

"We let down Michael and the staff, and the fans who came out and gave us such a good backing.

"It's strange how you go from such a mature performance against Russia and you come in today and it looks as if we had never played with each other before.

"It's hard to put your finger on it but just seems as if we didn't get the second ball, pass it well enough, guilty of everything really.

"I don't think we underestimated Luxembourg, we know ourselves if we want results we have to be on it every single game and this time we weren't on it."

* Russia beat Israel 3-1 to overtake Portugal at the top of World Cup qualifying Group F and move a step closer to the finals.

Two goals in two minutes settled the game with Vasili Berezutskiy making the breakthrough in the 50th minute and Alexander Kokorin doubling the lead in the 52nd minute. Denis Glushakov made it 3-0 when he reacted first to a penalty from Roman Shirokov that rebounded back off a post. Eran Zehavi headed a consolation for Israel in stoppage time.

Belfast Telegraph


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