Home frustration for Northern Ireland as late goal adds to Germany winning margin

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis  with Germany's Julian Brandt during the European Championship qualifier in Belfast. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis with Germany's Julian Brandt during the European Championship qualifier in Belfast. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Northern Ireland produced a spirited home performance but lost 2-0 to Germany in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Windsor Park.

Conor Washington started up front for Northern Ireland as Michael O’Neill restored his first-choice players for the crunch Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany.

Corry Evans, George Saville and Bailey Peacock-Farrell were the only survivors from Thursday’s 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg.

There were three changes from the side that won 1-0 in Belarus in the last qualifier in June, with Saville, Niall McGinn and Stuart Dallas coming in for Josh Magennis and the injured duo of Michael Smith and Jordan Jones.

Steven Davis captained the side to earn his 113th cap, breaking Aaron Hughes’ Northern Ireland record for an outfield player and moving to within six of Pat Jennings’ all-time record.

Germany faced a long list of absentees, with Nico Schulz and Ilkay Gundogan both having withdrawn from their squad since the 4-2 loss to Holland on Friday.

Jonathan Tah, who scored an own goal in that defeat, was replaced by Marcel Halstenberg, while Julian Brandt replaced Schulz.

The match kicked off in an electric atmosphere and the crowd were encouraged by Northern Ireland’s early endeavour as they showed the greater desire of the two teams.

The first shot at goal went to the hosts just six minutes in when Saville flicked on Dallas’ throw-in for Washington who poked just over.

And moments later the Hearts striker was through on goal after a rare mistake from Toni Kroos but Manuel Neuer was quickly off his line to charge down the shot with a good save.

Germany were looking to take the sting out of the game and soon had chances of their own, with Jonny Evans blocking Julian Brandt’s shot before Saville stood up strongly to a powerful effort from Joshua Kimmich.

Germany were then appealing for a penalty when Werner’s shot appeared to strike Craig Cathcart on the hand on its way past the post.

The resulting corner made it all the way to the far post, where Peacock-Farrell had to get down to deny Niklas Sule, who failed to make a clean connection.

Low was forced into an early change in 39th minute, with Jonathan Tah replacing the injured Matthias Ginter.

There was drama in the final minute before the break. Dallas’ low cross caused a goalmouth scramble but Neuer somehow emerged with the ball as Washington could not stretch far enough, while Peacock-Farrell made a point-blank save from Werner as Germany tried to hit them on the break.

But for all Northern Ireland’s hard work in the first half, Germany needed only three minutes to open the scoring in the second.

Peacock-Farrell had already made a good save to deny Lukas Klostermann in the opening seconds but there was nothing he could do when Halsternberg met Klostermann’s deep cross with a thundering half-volley.

It might have been worse moments later but the Burnley stopper denied Brandt before Klostermann fired wastefully over on the follow-up, while Serge Gnabry poked the ball just wide from a counter-attack.

Germany were in full flow now and Peacock-Farrell made an excellent save to push Werner’s low shot just around the post after a neat combination with Marco Reus, and was then alert to push a Reus free-kick around the post as the pressure continued.

Northern Ireland were screaming for a penalty on the hour mark when Paddy McNair went down but their appeals were waved away.

Gavin Whyte replaced Niall McGinn and was quick to make an impact as he shrugged off a foul to find Dallas whose low shot whistled wide of the post.

As the game became more stretched, Germany still looked the more likely to score, substitute Kai Havertz headed wastefully wide, but the visitors were content to shut the game down.

And they made sure of the points in the third minute of added time as Gnabry rolled the ball beyond Peacock-Farrell from a tight angle.