Evans earns NI heroic win
A smash-and-grab raid from N.Ireland saw them start their qualifying campaign with a1-0 win over Slovenia.
By Danny Wright
Last Updated: 04/09/10 2:10pm
A smash-and-grab raid from Northern Ireland saw them start their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with an unlikely 1-0 win over Slovenia.
The hosts had gone into the clash as heavy favourites and dominated long spells of the game, but a superb rear-guard action saw Nigel Worthington's team eke out a narrow win thanks to their first goal in seven outings.
Substitute Corry Evans was the hero on just his sixth appearance, coming off the bench to smash home in the 70th minute after Craig Cathcart had set up the Manchester United youngster.
Slovenia - roared on by a partisan home crowd - went closest when Valter Birsa was thwarted by Cathcart's saving tackle, while Maik Taylor stopped with his feet to keep out Josip Illic's effort to help his side to a precious win.
It seemed Northern Ireland might struggle without talented Manchester United defender Jonny Evans, brother of Corry.
Manned the barricades
Instead, they manned the barricades in a way that was nothing short of magnificent to defeat the World Cup qualifiers in their own backyard.
Northern Ireland started brightly, then found themselves under pressure for long spells only to get the victory they had craved.
Bostjan Cesar was content to concede a corner in the 11th minute under pressure from David Healy.
Grant McCann swung the ball in and Chris Baird knocked it on to Warren Feeney, but he had his back to goal and failed to get a decent touch.
Slovenia were finding it hard to get going and Valter Birsa delivered the ball from the right in the 15th minute, but it failed to trouble goalkeeper Maik Taylor and went wide.
Northern Ireland kept pushing forward and Baird whipped in a shot from 25 yards that was off target.
Slovenia almost made the breakthrough in the 21st minute when Birsa got on the end of a cross from Zlatan Ljubijankic only for Cathcart to make a timely clearance.
Northern Ireland found themselves on the back foot in the 38th minute, with Andraz Kirm whipping in a cross.
Milivoje Novakovic peeled away from his marker, but delivered a soft header from six yards into the arms of Taylor.
This was suddenly a difficult time for Northern Ireland and Kirm sent a ball across the face of the goal but no-one was on hand to take advantage.
Birsa then got enough power on his shot from inside the area, but Cathcart was handily placed and deflected the ball to safety in the 49th minute.
Back came Northern Ireland and Brunt sent Healy clear down the left nine minutes later.
The Sunderland striker cut inside, but only succeeded in sending a shot straight at goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
It proved to be a brief respite and after another flowing move Kirm's strike from 12 yards was blocked by Baird.
Northern Ireland were defending in numbers and Stephen Craigan put his body on the line in the 64th minute to keep out a shot from Robert Koren.
Three minutes later Nigel Worthington made a double substitution with Lafferty and Corry Evans coming on Healy and McCann.
Northern Ireland stunned Slovenia with midfielder Evans, who is also at Old Trafford, scoring at the far post following a glorious cross from Cathcart.
The home side responded and Birsa got into a good position in the penalty area, but Taylor, 39 on Saturday, got down quickly to make the save.
Then Ljubijankic found the side-netting from an acute angle in the 81st minute as Slovenia went in search of the equaliser.Johnny Gorman, who attends Wolves' Academy and Repton School, made his competitive debut a minute from time for Brunt as Northern Ireland held out for three points.
|Slovenia||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|12||Shots off Target||1|