Belfast Telegraph

'We had them by the throat': Conor Washington discusses missed chances as Northern Ireland fail to punish nervy Germany

It was so close but yet so far for Conor Washington and Northern Ireland.
It was so close but yet so far for Conor Washington and Northern Ireland.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

His second name was trending on Twitter in Belfast at full-time. You'd suppose that, whether it went in or not, that would always have been the case once the biggest opportunity of the night fell at the feet of Conor Washington.

Unfortunately for the Hearts forward, his name wasn't in lights as he couldn't quite manage to hook Stuart Dallas' cross home in the final minute of the first half, before Germany went on to beat Northern Ireland 2-0.

Dallas, who delivered a top display at right-back, had completed a neat one-two with the equally impressive Corry Evans and rattled in a low cross.

With the net gaping, Washington just couldn't get the telling touch before Jonathan Tah smothered the ball to give Manuel Neuer time to scamper across.

"I honestly couldn't tell you," he said, when asked what exactly happened in the frantic miliseconds after the cross came in.  "I haven't seen it back. Stuart's fired it across and then out of nowhere the ball's just popped up. There was a big melee and I managed to get something on it but just not enough. Next thing I know, Tah's dived full-length in front of me to block it. I thought I was going to get another bite at the cherry but it didn't happen like that."

It was the second time Washington had been denied by a big defensive effort, Neuer having made his huge frame as big as possible to save an early one-on-one, created by Northern Ireland's high-pressing efforts.

"At this top level, the chances have to go in, it's as simple as that," the striker mused. "Obviously disappointed as the two big ones fell my way and not to be able to convert them but I think it's a real step forward in terms of how we created those chances. We had them by the throat the first half I think and it's a real let-off for them.

"It was a difficult touch to take (when Corry Evans' block rifled toward Washington for the first chance), to be honest, with the way it was coming but the next thing you know, (Neuer) is on top of you. He's made a good save at the end of the day. Obviously as a striker you're always going to be critical and say you should be scoring those chances."

Ultmately chances come and go in all games. Big chances.

Germany just delivered their two moments of world class quality. Because they're Germany and that's the level they're at.

"When you come against the big countries it's a different level more-so than anything else in the final third and that's where we are - our three Premier League players play in the back four and that's the challenge that we face," said Michael O'Neill.

The levels, in the end, showed, but that's including the raised bar of O'Neill's new high-energy Northern Ireland.

"It's a massive step in the right direction," concluded Washington. "It shows the hard work we've been doing behind the scenes with the management team and all the new lads coming in. Hopefully we can take the performance and all the chances we missed into the next few games."

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