Ten-player Northern Eire returned to the all-too-familiar feeling of defeat as Adam Cerin’s early free-kick put Group H leaders Slovenia on the verge of qualifying for Euro 2024 with a scrappy 1-0 win at Windsor Park.
Saturday’s 3-0 victory over minnows San Marino ended Northern Eire’s five-game dropping streak however it proved solely a brief reprieve in an injury-ravaged qualifying marketing campaign which has now seen Michael O’Neill’s facet endure 5 1-0 defeats in eight video games.
The defining second of the match got here early on. Whereas there was little question in regards to the high quality of Adam Cerin’s fifth-minute free-kick, Northern Eire have been fuming at referee Istvan Kovacs’ determination to award it after Jamal Lewis barely clipped Benjamin Sesko on the sting of the field.
“I feel there’s all the time frustration whenever you lose the sport – and a little bit little bit of disappointment as properly,” O’Neill stated.
“I feel the gamers deserved extra out of it than what they received. We’ve had a irritating marketing campaign, a really difficult marketing campaign and tonight’s recreation was in all probability a mirrored image of that when once more.”
Shea Charles was booked for dissent and that proved pricey simply earlier than the hour mark when the Southampton midfielder went in late on Andraz Sporar and was despatched off, the primary blemish on the 19-year-old’s spectacular begin in worldwide soccer.
Charles has began each recreation of this marketing campaign however will now miss November’s journey to Finland, one other headache for O’Neill, who was pressured into additional modifications right here with Dan Ballard out with a thigh drawback and Paddy McNair suspended following his late yellow card on Saturday.
The supervisor responded with daring selections, handing debuts to Bolton defender Eoin Toal and Kilmarnock midfielder Brad Lyons, the thirtieth and thirty first gamers for use in eight qualifiers up to now, regardless of extra skilled choices on the bench.
The environment inside a below-capacity Windsor Park was already flat initially with however it fell silent after Cerin’s purpose, the followers not even having the vitality to renew the anti-Casement Park chanting heard earlier than kick-off. Because the evening wore on, a way of injustice would rouse the followers.
Northern Eire responded shortly when Slovenia scored early in Ljubljana final month, a 4-2 defeat, however struggled to threaten right here. Paul Smyth, the star of the present on Saturday, discovered little pleasure on the suitable. On the left Lewis had extra pleasure find house however lacked the standard of cross required.
Though restricted going ahead, Northern Eire have been at the least making certain Slovenia’s highly effective strike drive had few sights of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s purpose.
After one uncommon assault, Slovenia appeared to have been gifted a second simply after the half hour. Trai Hume’s poor headed clearance went straight to Jan Mlakar and Toal received all of it fallacious making an attempt to chop out his low cross, permitting Sesko to thump residence from shut vary.
Nevertheless, the guests’ celebrations have been minimize brief after the referee checked the replay, deeming Sporar to be interfering from an offside place.
O’Neill despatched on Washington for Josh Magennis on the break and was planning additional modifications a little bit over 10 minutes in earlier than Charles noticed pink, forcing a rethink.
Conor McMenamin, amongst the targets on Saturday, had been attributable to come on however as a substitute it was George Saville, Dion Charles and Isaac Value who entered the fray in a triple change.
The substitutes mixed for Northern Eire’s finest transfer within the 69th minute as Value drove down the suitable, exchanged passes with Washington after which pulled the ball again for Saville however the midfielder, but to attain for Northern Eire after 49 appearances, didn’t get sufficient energy on his shot.
There was a let-off within the 72nd minute when Mlakar discovered house in entrance of purpose however received the contact on his shot all fallacious, whereas on the different finish Dion Charles blazed harmlessly large.
Northern Eire nonetheless pushed ahead however one other flowing transfer ended with Saville taking pictures straight at Oblak and different assaults have been thwarted by the over-officious Kovacs.
Captain Jonny Evans, who had therapy on an ankle damage within the first half, ended the sport limping closely after one other sturdy impression when difficult for a nook.
O’Neill: Charles should be taught from dismissal
Northern Eire boss Michael O’Neill:
“This can be a studying curve for younger gamers,” he stated. “(Slovenia) are a way more skilled worldwide staff than we’re. You possibly can see that in the best way they managed the state of affairs and performed the referee a little bit bit.
“The emotion within the stadium clearly transferred to the gamers a little bit bit, everybody will get a bit annoyed with a few of the selections…In case you’re booked for dissent, that is poor. You set your self beneath strain so we’ve got to be taught from that.
“We have in all probability seen a little bit mixture of inexperience in plenty of gamers and in addition simply the character of the emotion within the recreation whenever you’re chasing the sport in opposition to a staff which might be a little bit bit extra skilled and that may spill over a little bit bit.
“However I feel that on the evening we have been fairly upset with the efficiency of the referee.”
Captain Jonny Evans ended the evening limping closely after taking a late blow to his foot, having already been down within the first half to obtain therapy.
“He is clearly hobbling a little bit bit in there,” O’Neill stated of the Manchester United defender. “I feel the identical foot was stamped on thrice so he is limping fairly badly however I feel he’ll be high-quality.
“Will probably be a type of the place when he wakes up within the morning he’ll be fairly sore however there isn’t any actual harm so far as I do know.”
Northern Eire return to motion in November with two Euro 2024 qualifiers as they go to Finland on November 17 adopted by a house recreation in opposition to Denmark on November 20.