N Ireland frozen out in Iceland
Northern Ireland¿s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 were dealt a crushing blow as they lost 2-1 to Iceland.
By Lewis Rutledge
Last Updated: 12/09/07 9:54pm
Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 were dealt a crushing blow as they lost 2-1 to Iceland.
Nigel Worthington's side were looking to get back on track following a disappointing defeat to Latvia at the weekend, but made the worst possible start as Armann Bjornsson smashed home a half-volley in the sixth minute following a lightning break by Gunnar Thorvaldsson.
Jonny Evans missed an open goal late in the first half and Chris Brunt rattled the crossbar with a blistering effort shortly after the break, as Northern Ireland's frustration grew.
David Healy netted his 12th goal of the qualification campaign from the penalty spot to draw Northern Ireland level after 72 minutes, but Keith Gillespie scored an own goal one minute from time to complete a miserable week for Group F's surprise package.
Northern Ireland almost broke through inside the first minute with Warren Feeney testing goalkeeper Arni Arason with a fierce shot.
However, Iceland took the lead after just six minutes when Northern Ireland were caught cold. A swift move saw Thorvaldsson deliver a good ball into the area and Bjornsson was the first to react and drilled a shot beyond goalkeeper Maik Taylor and into the roof of the net.
Northern Ireland hit back in the 15th minute when Chris Brunt delivered a corner to the back post. Jonny Evans escaped his marker to flick in a header that was deflected to safety.
Evans, who had been troubled by a groin injury then needed treatment in the 19th minute following a late challenge from Bjornsson, which saw the Icelandic player booked.
Northern Ireland raised the tempo and Sammy Clingan made space in the 28th minute on the edge of the area only to fire his effort wide of the post.
They should have equalised three minutes later when Evans cleared the bar with his close range shot after Arni Arason pushed away a free kick from Brunt.
This was a good spell of pressure by the province and Evans complained unsuccessfully that he had been impeded when Michael Duff played the ball in after 33 minutes.
Feeney was finding it difficult to get into the game and was booked in the 41st minute for a challenge on Arason following a short back pass from Hermann Hreidarsson.
Brunt was unlucky not to equalise in the 51st minute when his 25-yard thunderbolt came back off the bar with Arason a spectator.
Former Bolton and Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen was introduced in the 54th minute to help Iceland regain the momentum.
However, Northern Ireland were beginning to turn the screw and Brunt was a danger from set-pieces.
He delivered a good corner from the right after 63 minutes and Arnar Vidarsson was happy to concede a corner.
Northern Ireland kept up the pressure and Michael Duff got on the end of a
Brunt corner - but could not get enough power on his effort.
Nigel Worthington's side drew level in the 72nd minute thanks to Healy's 12th goal of the campaign.
The Fulham striker scored coolly from the penalty spot after being upended by Kari Arnason. That conversion took his tally to 32 goals from 59 games - and the equaliser was no more than Northern Ireland deserved.
But then with a minute of the 90 to go they were undone when Gillespie put the ball into his own net, under pressure from Gudjohnsen after Gretar Steinsson played the ball in.
|Iceland||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|3||Shots off Target||7|