Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fans pleased to see Michael O'Neill’s men dig in after setbacks

By Ian Cahoon

The Green and White Army were quick to salute Michael O’Neill’s men despite last night’s 2-0 defeat to Germany. There were just under 2,000 fans in Hannover to see the World champions net two quickfire goals inside the opening 20 minutes.

However, from then on it was a resolute performance from Northern Ireland, and their commitment was recognised by both the travelling fans and those tuning in back at home.

“I don’t think going two goals down early in the game was because Northern Ireland were that poor, as much as that Germany were excellent,” Larne man Andy Scullion said.

“They totally dominated possession in the first 20 minutes and didn’t really give Northern Ireland much opportunity to win the ball back or force a mistake.

“The goals conceded look quite poor, but Germany really pulled Northern Ireland from pillar to post.

“The danger was that we might fall to pieces, but thankfully that didn’t happen and on the occasions we did get the ball it wasn’t given away too cheaply.”

With a tight race expected for the runner-up spot in Group C, Andrew Dickson was pleased to see O’Neill’s men lose just 2-0.

“It’s always disappointing to lose, especially because I thought we might have been able to nick a point,” he said.

“In saying that, there’s no disgrace in the result, especially with Germany winning their previous games 3-0.

“It would have been easy for the team to cave in at 2-0 down.They fought on and made sure we didn’t concede any more, and with goal difference possibly coming into it, it could be really important.

“Michael O’Neill has obviously built a brilliant spirit in the camp and it has shone through.”

Josh Magennis was one of the surprise inclusions in Michael O’Neill’s starting XI, with many fans expecting to see Kyle Lafferty leading the line.

“I think a lot of people would have been scratching their heads when they saw the team, especially with Lafferty’s goals on Saturday,” Gary Burgess said.

“To be fair, Magennis did better than most people expected in the first half but that’s not to say that Lafferty wouldn’t have done the same or even given us more of a threat.

“At least you know you have more than one striker who can compete at that level though.

“The Azerbaijan game next month is probably going to be really significant now. A win in that would be huge.”

Adding to the hot debate on Michael O’Neill’s team selection, Tom Patterson from Newtownabbey added: “I’m a firm believer in playing the best 11 available and I doubt there are many that would say that team is our best starting XI.

“However, I can see Michael’s thinking, this group is not going to come down to points scored against Germany but it may well come down to goal difference with the Czech Republic.

“I thought Josh led the line superbly and possibly could have nicked himself a goal.”

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