Northern Ireland draw another blank in friendly with Cyprus

Cyprus' Marios Nikolaou with Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward
Cyprus' Marios Nikolaou with Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward


Gareth McAuley was sent off in the second half as Northern Ireland laboured to a grim goalless draw at lowly Cyprus.

The trip to Nicosia was seen as an ideal chance for manager Michael O’Neill to register a first away win as boss and end an embarrassing sequence of no goals in away friendlies since 2006.

But his side managed neither, often outplayed by opponents ranked 122nd in the world, and forced to hang on when West Brom defender McAuley was harshly dismissed in the 75th minute for a late tackle on Dimitris Christofi.

Northern Ireland have now won just once in their last 20 outings, albeit against Russia, and any optimism created by a kind qualifying group for Euro 2016 will have partially evaporated after they once again failed to put away a lesser light.

Things may have been different had Martin Paterson’s 12th-minute header not been brilliantly saved, but there was little excuse for the lack of another clear-cut chance in the remaining 68 minutes.

The fixture had clearly failed to grab the attention of the Nicosia public, with the lure of free entry not enough to tempt more than a scattering of home fans, who were comfortably out-sung by a hardy away contingent.