Northern Ireland hold Czechs
Northern Ireland's quest to qualify for South Africa 2010 is up and running after a goalless draw with Czech Republic.
Last Updated: 10/09/08 10:06pm
Northern Ireland's quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa is up and running after holding Czech Republic to a goalless draw.
Nigel Worthington's side kicked off the campaign with a disappointing 2-1 defeat in Slovakia on Saturday, although their display was much-improved at Windsor Park.
The Czechs were lively throughout and particularly dangerous on the counter-attack, but in truth, the experienced Maik Taylor did not have too many difficult saves on the night.
The game's best chance fell to Warren Feeney shortly after half-time. The striker only had Petr Cech to beat, but the Chelsea ace came off his line well to snuff out the opportunity.
There was a scare for Northern Ireland as early as the sixth minute when Marek Jankulovski delivered a free-kick from distance. It seemed to be caught on the wind and goalkeeper Maik Taylor was happy to tip the ball over the bar.
The Czechs came close again three minutes later after Radek Sirl swung in a corner from the right. Radoslav Kovac peeled away from his marker and headed narrowly over the bar to the province's relief.
Then Petr Cech did well to scramble the ball away in the 18th minute following a wayward header from team-mate David Rozehnal. The Czechs responded and Taylor got down quickly to smother a shot from Libor Sionko.
David Healy had made a quiet start but sprung into action in the 23rd minute. However, his chip was too ambitious and Cech was able to take it with a degree of comfort.
Northern Ireland surged forward in the 33rd minute and Gillespie saw his effort cleared by Rozehnal.
However, the Czechs launched another swift counter-attack a minute later, only for Jan Polak to send a shot high over the bar.
Healy was then left on the floor following a challenge by Polak and needed on-pitch treatment. However, to the relief of the supporters the Sunderland striker was able to resume his role in the team.
The Czechs broke forward in the 43rd minute but Sirl dragged his shot wide of the post.
Milan Baros should have put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half-time but headed wide following a cross from Zdenek Grygera.
Bright second half
Northern Ireland began the second half brightly and Cech did well to block Feeney's effort from an acute angle in the 51st minute. The ball broke to Brunt on the edge of the area but he sent his effort high over the bar.
Brunt then spotted Cech out of his goal and tried to lob him from distance but his ambitious effort went wide. Then Tomas Ujfalusi was booked in the 63rd minute for taking a lunge at Healy as he tried to break forward.
This was a good spell by Northern Ireland and Gillespie rattled in a shot a minute later which was cleanly taken by Cech.
Gillespie was showing little sign of that ankle injury which had troubled him this season and was providing a good outlet on the right as the match entered a crucial stage.
Burnley striker Martin Paterson was then drafted into the action after 72nd minute when he replaced Warren Feeney.Six minutes later Paterson got on the end of an inswinging cross from Brunt but headed wide of the post - although Northern Ireland secured a hard-earned draw.
|Northern Ireland||Team Statistics||Czech Republic|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||5|