Northern Ireland 0-0 Bulgaria: Familiar story for Ian Baraclough’s men as hosts show offensive promise but again fail to score in crucial World Cup qualifier
- Northern Ireland drew 0-0 against Bulgaria in their World Cup qualifier
- A reluctant first half meant that Northern Ireland created many opportunities but did not score
- Stuart Dallas hit the woodwork and Niall McGinn got close, but it wasn’t enough
Two games in and the road to Qatar already looks very difficult for Northern Ireland.
After their opening defeat to Italy in Parma last week, Ian Baraclough and his players knew that this qualifying match against Bulgaria at Windsor Park was a game they had to win and that they failed to win it.
The Italians disappear in group C with nine points out of sight and Switzerland also has a record of 100 percent.
Northern Ireland played a 0-0 draw against Bulgaria in a crucial World Cup qualifier
Midfielder Steve Davis (left) had a promising opportunity in the first half but his shot went wide
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER REVIEWS
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Peacock-Farrell 7; Ballard 6.5 (Smith 74, 6), J. Evans 6.5, Cathcart 6, Lewis 6.5; Dallas 7, Davis 6.5, McNair 8, Saville 5 (Kennedy 74,6); Whyte 6 (McGinn 64, 6.5), Magennis 6.5 (Lafferty 82)
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Charles, Ferguson, Hazard, C. Evans, Thompson, McCann, Hughes
Booked: McNair, Saville, Lafferty
Manager: Ian Baraclough
Bulgaria (3-5-2): Naumov; Hristov, Antov, Chochev; Hristov, Despodov, Kostadinov (Vitanov 44), Vutov (Iliev 45), Tsvetanov (Zanev); Yomov (Karagaren 73), Galabinov (Iliev 73)
Subs not used: Zanev, Delev, Iliev, Karadzhov, Dimov, Bozhikov, Malinov, Iliev
Booked: Hristov, Antov
Manager: Yasen Petrov
Referee: Yigal Frid
Even if they make a mistake, Northern Ireland doesn’t look like a team equipped to take advantage at this point. They haven’t won 11 games under Baraclough and couldn’t beat a stubborn Bulgaria despite dominating the match.
Magennis was a handful for the Bulgarians and narrowly headed over halfway through the first half from Paddy McNair’s free kick.
Northern Ireland threatened again two minutes after the break when Daniel Naumov parried Gavin Whyte’s volley with an overflowing goal.
It was the prelude to a brilliant start of the second half for the home team, as the game again flowed in one direction and Bulgaria was forced to defend deeper and deeper.
Baraclough sent Niall McGinn, scorer of a spectacular goal in last weekend’s friendly defeat to the US, and the Aberdeen man nearly came up with another when he checked McNair’s cross to the chest and hit just wide.
The final roll of the dice came with the introduction of Kyle Lafferty, but he hasn’t scored for his country in five years and unfortunately this wasn’t the opportunity to end that barren run.
It could have been worse, but Bailey Peacock-Farrell, criticized for his performance in Italy, produced an excellent reflex save to keep Dimitar Iliev’s header off Bulgaria’s only attempt at goal in injury time.
“That’s why he’s in the goals,” said Baraclough. ‘He had to concentrate without doing anything and saving something like that. We are therefore talking about a different result. ‘
Northern Ireland showed more promise in the first half, with Josh Magennis (right) just over
Stuart Dallas (left) had the best chance of the first half but his header crashed into the crossbar
It now promises to be a long few months for Northern Ireland until the next qualifiers against Lithuania and Switzerland in September, but the manager remains optimistic.
“It just takes a different view of things,” added Baraclough. “We just have to get away from home and beat people like Switzerland. Beat Lithuania here and there. We’ve had great results before while away from home.
‘That is in a new season and we may be in different times. We are talking about a different scenario. ‘
Northern Ireland continued to put pressure on Bulgaria in the second half, Jamal Lewis (right) worked hard
Substitute Niall McGinn (left) can’t hide his frustration after turning and shooting just wide