Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland draw comfort from brave display

By Ian Cahoon

Northern Ireland 0 Mexico 0: Northern Ireland's young guns restored pride in their Milk Cup campaign but failed to make a sixth straight Elite Section final.

Mexico came into the game at the Coleraine Showgrounds as the team to watch after a 5-0 demolition of Turkey on Saturday night.

However, Stephen Robinson’s side showed they had learned their lesson after shipping five goals of their own in the opening fixture.

In the end the result is only good enough to contest the fifth and sixth place play-off, but Robinson will no doubt be pleased by game time against quality opposition at this level.

They also have the opportunity to end the week on a high when they take on Turkey at the Riada Stadium on Thursday (11.00am).

With Robinson, under the watchful eye of senior boss Michael O’Neill, blooding youngsters for the under-19 European Championship qualifiers this was always going to be more about development than quick results.

In the first half Northern Ireland set their stall out to contain Mexico.

The Mexicans had the majority of possession but struggled in front of goal, unlike two nights earlier.

The first opportunity of the night fell to Jesus Alonso Escoboza who dragged his effort wide from 15 yards.

With 16 minutes gone Julio Enrique Gomez surged through on goal and dinked a shot over Gareth Deane, but Jordan Watson was in the right place at the right time to hook the ball off the line.

Alberto Guzman was next to try his luck, this time from 30 yards but it sailed well clear of the bar as Mexico looked increasingly frustrated.

Northern Ireland showed rare glimpses of attacking threat themselves and when they did the sizeable home support got behind them.

Robinson's side almost took the lead in the 34th minute, against the run of play, when Liam McAlinden’s corner caught goalkeeper Richard Sanchez in no man’s land, but Josh Robinson couldn’t direct his header on target.

Deane’s goal led a charmed life in the 36th minute when Escoboza’s corner was headed towards goal by Antonio Briseno, but defender James Knowles and the goalkeeper managed to combine to ensure the ball was deflected over the bar.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first with

Mexico probing for the first goal without any success.

They came close in the 58th minute when Marco Atonio Bueno’s shot was directed onto the roof of Deane’s goal.

Northern Ireland forged their first shot on target in the 66th minute with a rasping effort from Dougie Wilson that was expertly palmed away by Sanchez.

Mexico almost finally unlocked the home defence seven minutes from time, but goalkeeper Deane was equal to Bueno’s prodded shot from close range.

In the end a point was enough to take Mexico into Friday’s decider against Denmark at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

Denmark last night beat Chile 2-1 victory at the Riada Stadium.

N IRELAND: Deane, Sendels-White, Robinson, Conlon (Knowles 17), Watson, Winchester (McCarten 56), Morgan (McGuigan 78), Wilson, McAleer, McLellan (McCaffrey 84), McAlinden. Subs not used: Brennan, McCullough, McCaffrey, Burke.

MEXICO: Sanchez, Marin, Briseno, Guzman, Gomez, Bueno, Corona (Galvan 59), Abella, F. Hernandez, Luna (Lopez 59), Escoboza (Gonzalez 59). Subs not used: Flores, Trevino, Gurrola, B. Hernandez.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington

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