NI lose to Greece as Nations League woes continue


Greece captain Tasos Bouchalakis
Greece captain Tasos Bouchalakis

Northern Ireland’s search for a first-ever Nations League win has now stretched to 11 matches after a deflating 1-0 home defeat by Greece.

Visiting captain Tasos Bakasetas scored the only goal of a somewhat scrappy game at Windsor Park late in the first half.

Substitute Kyle Lafferty fired just over the crossbar with a well-hit free-kick late on as the hosts came to life in the final 25 minutes after a flat first-half performance.

Ian Baraclough’s men are now away to Cyprus on Sunday in their second League C Group 2 match before their busy schedule takes them to Kosovo on 9 June, then they complete their opening quadruple-header at home to Cyprus on 12 June.

Thursday night’s result made it eight defeats and three draws in the Nations League for Northern Ireland, who are playing in the third tier of the competition for the first time after being relegated.

Baraclough is without a number of senior players for this camp and gave a competitive debut to Fleetwood Town’s Paddy Lane, while Manchester City’s 18-year-old Shea Charles, one of four new call-ups, came on as a late substitute for his senior international debut.

Greece’s decisive goal arrived in the 39th minute when the Northern Ireland midfield failed to track the forward run of visiting captain Bakasetas.

When Dimitris Limnios played the ball inside from the right, Bakasetas had far too much time and space on the edge of the box as he controlled the ball well and planted a fine low strike wide of Bailey Peacock-Farrell and into the far corner.

The double substitution of Kyle Lafferty and Niall McGinn on the hour-mark injected much-needed life into a low-key showing from the home side, and both subs came close to grabbing an equaliser.

McGinn hit a snapshot from the edge of the area on 66 minutes but it was straight at Benfica keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos and a few minutes later captain Steven Davis – further extending his caps record with a 135th appearance – hit a right-foot curler over the crossbar.

It looked like the stage might be set when, with five minutes remaining, the returning Lafferty stood over a free-kick 20 yards out, and his shot was well hit but it went just over the crossbar.

More to follow.

Line-ups

Northern Ireland

Formation 5-3-2

  • 1Peacock-Farrell
  • 2BradleySubstituted forMcGinnat 62′minutes
  • 17McNairBooked at 90mins
  • 5Evans
  • 4Ballard
  • 3LaneSubstituted forHumeat 78′minutes
  • 16McCann
  • 8Davis
  • 6SavilleSubstituted forCharlesat 79′minutes
  • 9LaverySubstituted forLaffertyat 62′minutes
  • 18WhyteBooked at 41minsSubstituted forCharlesat 71′minutes

Substitutes

  • 7McGinn
  • 10Lafferty
  • 11Charles
  • 12Southwood
  • 13Hume
  • 14McCalmont
  • 15McMenamin
  • 19Donnelly
  • 20Charles
  • 21McCann
  • 22Brown
  • 23Carson

Greece

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Vlachodimos
  • 15RotaSubstituted forBaldockat 90+2′minutes
  • 4Mavropanos
  • 17Hatzidiakos
  • 21Tsimikas
  • 23SiopisSubstituted forTzavellasat 82′minutesBooked at 84mins
  • 5Bouchalakis
  • 18LimniosSubstituted forPavlidisat 69′minutes
  • 11BakasetasSubstituted forKourbelisat 69′minutes
  • 20MantalosBooked at 90mins
  • 19GiakoumakisSubstituted forChatzigiovanisat 69′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Baldock
  • 3Tzavellas
  • 6Kourbelis
  • 7Chatzigiovanis
  • 8Alexandropoulos
  • 9Douvikas
  • 10Tzolis
  • 12Paschalakis
  • 13Athanasiadis
  • 14Papanikolaou
  • 16Pavlidis
  • 22Giannoulis

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Reference-www.bbc.co.uk

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