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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Northern Ireland make history with win over Slovenia

Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Wales against Ukraine tonight.

Northern Ireland forward Conor Washington was on target tonight.
Northern Ireland forward Conor Washington was on target tonight.

CONOR WASHINGTON’S FIRST international goal ensured Northern Ireland set a new record by going 10 games unbeaten with a 1-0 friendly win over Slovenia at Windsor Park.

After making his debut in the 1-1 draw with Wales last week, Washington’s maiden Northern Ireland strike proved enough for Michael O’Neill’s team to surpass the nine-match streak set by Billy Bingham’s side in 1986.

Northern Ireland came under early pressure but were denied an opener when QPR forward Washington was thwarted by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak before the half-hour mark.

However, Washington made no mistake with his next opportunity soon after, showing great strength to hold off two challenges before sneaking an effort inside the upright.

Slovenia were awarded a penalty with 66 minutes on the clock when Jonny Evans sent Miral Samardzic tumbling in the area, but half-time substitute Milivoje Novakovic was denied by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who replaced Michael McGovern in the line-up.

Josh Magennis missed a chance to double the hosts’ lead soon after, but they held for a slender win that will provide another boost to their confidence ahead of Euro 2016.

O’Neill deployed a three-man defence that immediately came under pressure, Nejc Skubic curling over before Roman Bezjak fired into the side-netting with 12 minutes played, before fans inside Windsor Park offered applause in memory of late Netherlands icon Johan Cruyff two minutes later.

Washington created Northern Ireland’s first decent chance shortly before the half-hour mark, but, after beating Samardzic to burst into the box, his attempt to slide the ball under the onrushing Oblak was kept out.

Washington did not fail at the second attempt, however, outmuscling Samardzic and Skubic before cutting inside Bostjan Cesar and firing a right-footed shot inside the near post.

Jamie Ward was perhaps lucky to avoid a second yellow card early in the second half as his challenge on Oblak resulted in a fiery confrontation with Samardzic that drew in numerous players and led to bookings for Washington and the Slovenia goalkeeper.

Slovenia were offered a route back into the game when Evans hauled down Samardzic inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.

But Novakovic was unable to take the chance to pull Slovenia level, his low penalty to Carroll’s right parried aside by the veteran stopper.

Northern Ireland came close to extending their lead soon after when Magennis pounced after Oblak failed to hold Kyle Lafferty’s cross, but he could only steer wide.

Carroll produced a late save from to keep Valter Birsa off the scoresheet in the closing stages, denying Slovenia an equaliser and ensuring history was made with a win.

Meanwhile, an Andriy Yarmolenko strike against the run of play proved enough for Ukraine to register a 1-0 friendly victory over Wales on Monday.

Both nations were playing their last match before their respective coaches name their final squads for Euro 2016.

And, while Chris Coleman will have been satisfied with his side’s dominance of possession for the most part, the sloppy defending that led to the hosts’ goal will be a worry.

Despite the fact Wales’ defensive line was arguably at full strength, Yarmolenko was allowed the time and space to move into the penalty area unmarked and beat Wayne Hennessey at his near post after getting on the end of a Ruslan Rotan free-kick.

The term ‘friendly’ seemed almost lost on Ukraine has they showed no mercy in their attempts to win back possession, and Coleman will be relieved to leave Kiev with a fully fit squad.

Wales — without star duo Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey — rung the changes in a stop-start second half, as Mykhaylo Fomenko’s men clung on to their narrow advantage.

International football friendly results on Monday:

Ukraine 1 (Yarmolenko 28) Wales 0

Northern Ireland 1 (Washington 41) Slovenia 0

Andorra 0 Moldova 1 (Armas 45+2)

Liechtenstein 2 (Gubser 74, Wolfinger 90+3) Faroe Islands 3 (Hendriksson 6, Edmundsson 44, Holst 58)

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