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Impressive NI earn draw with Italy

Published on: 16 November 2021

George Saville had an effort superbly saved by Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in the second half

Northern Ireland produced their best performance of the qualifying campaign to earn a 0-0 draw that denied Italy automatic World Cup qualification.

Substitute Conor Washington almost won it for the hosts in the last minute but his effort was cleared off the line.

Switzerland's win over Bulgaria means they top Group C and European champions Italy must face a play-off for a place in Qatar.

The draw secured a third-place finish in the table for Ian Baraclough's men.

Switzerland, who went into Monday night's final qualifying matches in second place, came through to win the group by hammering Bulgaria 4-0.

    Post-match reaction and all the action as it happened from N Ireland 0-0 Italy

'We could have been talking about a historic victory' - Baraclough

An outstanding second-half performance from Northern Ireland in front of a raucous Windsor Park crowd almost delivered a win that would have been one of the biggest giantkilling acts in their history.

George Saville and Stuart Dallas had both gone close with good opportunities before Washington raced onto a long ball in the 90th minute and beat the outrushing Donnarumma to the ball.

The Charlton Athletic striker was clean through on goal but he failed to catch his left-foot shot cleanly and it allowed Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci to get back and clear off his line.

It had the entire home support on its feet and they were standing again when the full-time whistle sounded to cheer the players off the pitch.

Having said beforehand that he would not think about his international future until after the campaign, home captain Steven Davis savoured the Windsor atmosphere before exiting the pitch.

Roberto Mancini's Italians, who came into the match ahead of the Swiss on goal difference, must now prepare for a play-off in March, having missed out on the last World Cup by losing a play-off to Sweden.

Retirement conversations 'for another day' - Davis coy on futureGrandstand finish to transitional campaign

Having stood firm against an onslaught of Italian possession in the first half, Northern Ireland showed a bravery in the second half that allowed them to carry a threat to Mancini's side.

They could - and probably should - have taken the lead in the 50th minute when a great move found Lewis in space on the left and his low cross was met by Saville, whose well-hit shot was superbly saved by Donnarumma.

Washington was lively after coming on for Gavin Whyte and it was an excellent break down the left by him that fed Lewis again. His cut-back sat invitingly for Stuart Dallas but, with Windsor on its feet again, the Leeds man dragged his low right-foot shot just wide of the far post.

Insigne and Federico Chiesa both came close for Italy before Washington had that late effort cleared off the line. The shock win was not to be but it did mean Northern Ireland answered the call of their manager and finished what has been a difficult and transitional campaign on a high.

Clean sheet 'important' - FlanaganEvans sublime as well-drilled NI stand firm in first half

The pattern of the match looked to be set in the opening minutes as Italy enjoyed lengthy periods of possession, with a lot of crisp one and two-touch passing while looking for the incisive final ball.

A diagonal ball from left to right seemed to be a regular ploy, with Jamal Lewis having to be alive at left-wing-back for the hosts as the visitors looked to get in behind him. Giovanni di Lorenzo did just that in the eighth minute but his shot on the half volley was superbly saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

As dominant as the visitors were in possession, Northern Ireland's back five were well drilled and kept their shape well, marshalled superbly by the ever-composed Jonny Evans.

Jonny Evans was superb for Northern Ireland

The Leicester City centre-half had to make a number of telling interceptions in a back five that looked content to sit deep and thwart the European champions.

A corner routine just before the half hour found Lorenzo Insigne on the edge of the box but his curler was comfortable for Peacock-Farrell, but the Sheffield Wednesday keeper had to make a more difficult save with his feet a few moments later when Federico Chiesa fired in a low effort.

Northern Ireland offered little as an attacking force in the opening 45 minutes, with front two Gavin Whyte and Josh Magennis having to drop deep and help with the defensive effort, but, with manager Baraclough continually barking instructions from the sideline, they deserved to be level at the break.

    Line-upsMatch StatsLive Text

Line-upsNorthern Ireland

Formation 5-3-2

1Peacock-Farrell14Dallas4Flanagan5Evans20Cathcart3Lewis16McCann8Davis6Saville18Whyte21Magennis

    1Peacock-FarrellBooked at 83mins14Dallas4Flanagan5Evans20Cathcart3Lewis16McCann8Davis6SavilleSubstituted forEvansat 72'minutes18WhyteSubstituted forWashingtonat 72'minutes21MagennisBooked at 57mins

Substitutes

    2Bradley7McGinn9Washington10Taylor11Ferguson12Hazard13Evans15Jones19Galbraith22Brown23Southwood

Italy

Formation 4-3-3

21G Donnarumma2Di Lorenzo19Bonucci15Acerbi13Emerson6Tonali8Jorginho18Barella11Berardi10Insigne14Chiesa

    21G DonnarummaBooked at 90mins2Di Lorenzo19Bonucci15Acerbi13EmersonSubstituted forScamaccaat 80'minutes6TonaliBooked at 9minsSubstituted forCristanteat 45'minutes8JorginhoSubstituted forLocatelliat 68'minutes18BarellaSubstituted forBelottiat 64'minutes11Berardi10InsigneSubstituted forBernardeschiat 68'minutes14Chiesa

Substitutes

    1Meret3Zappacosta4Ferrari5Locatelli7Scamacca9Belotti12Pessina16Cristante17Cragno20Bernardeschi22Raspadori23Mancini

Referee:István KovácsMatch StatsHome TeamNorthern IrelandAway TeamItalyPossessionHome29%Away71%ShotsHome4Away12Shots on TargetHome2Away6CornersHome3Away12FoulsHome11Away11Live TextPost update

Match ends, Northern Ireland 0, Italy 0.

90'+4'Booking

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy) is shown the yellow card.

90'+3'Full Time

Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 0, Italy 0.

90'+2'Post update

Foul by Federico Chiesa (Italy).

90'+2'Post update

Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90'+1'Post update

Foul by Federico Bernardeschi (Italy).

90'+1'Post update

Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90'Post update

Attempt blocked. Conor Washington (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

88'Post update

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Steven Davis.

87'Post update

Bryan Cristante (Italy) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

87'Post update

Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

86'Post update

Attempt missed. Gianluca Scamacca (Italy) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Federico Bernardeschi with a cross following a corner.

86'Post update

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Tom Flanagan.

85'Post update

Bryan Cristante (Italy) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

85'Post update

Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

84'Post update

Attempt missed. Domenico Berardi (Italy) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

83'Booking

Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card.

82'Post update

Attempt missed. Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jamal Lewis.

80'Substitution

Substitution, Italy. Gianluca Scamacca replaces Emerson.

80'Post update

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Steven Davis.

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Source: bbc.com

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