Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland

Midfielder Ali McCann believes the Northern Ireland side was unlucky to lose to Ukraine 1-0 in Dnipro after allowing what he described as a poor goal.

Unmarked Oleksandr Zubkov scored in the 10th minute for the hosts in their final Euro 2020 qualifier.

Northern Ireland was frustrated in the first half that didn’t stop. But they responded well and came close to scoring Ciaron Brown before the break.

“It was a tough game,” said McCann, who also impressed in the middle of the pitch.

“I thought it was a bad goal for us, and it didn’t start well. But I thought we grew up in it and did well in the second half.

“We could feel unlucky not to come out with anything. But it was a good game for the team, especially in the second half. And we could take a lot of advantages and go to the next camp.

“This week has always been smart. You get a lot of caps for being in and out of the camps. It’s great, and I love it.”

The defeat, played in front of 15,000 local supporters, meant that Northern Ireland could not build Sunday 3-0 against Malta. It was manager Ian Baraclough‘s first victory in 90 minutes.

The manager warned ahead of the game that Ukraine would offer a very tough test. 

And this was evident from what was last released in Northern Ireland. Just before resuming their World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

As he did on Sunday, Baraclough is looking for an experienced line-up. Rather than starting, any of the youngsters called up to the team. 

However, Dan Ballard made it to the first list after helping Blackpool win the League One final.

Peacock-Farrell stands firm as Ukraine begins to heat up.

In the absence of Jonny Evans, Northern Ireland was surprised by the experienced Craig Cathcart and young Ballard. 

And Ciaron Brown on either side, and they were under constant pressure in the early stages.

The running backs were their biggest challenge, with Zubkov on the left. And Andriy Yarmolenko on the right, causing a lot of trouble from a wide range. With the West Ham man shooting wide in the first minute.

Northern Ireland looked like it was starting to grow into a game when the club’s management took the lead in the 10th minute. 

Peacock-Farrell stands firm as Ukraine begins to heat up (Source: Leeds Live)
Peacock-Farrell stands firm as Ukraine begins to heat up (Source: Leeds Live)

And it was Zubkov who scored the first injury when he came in from the left.

He fed Roman Yaremchuk, who Peacock-Farrell heavily shot. And it was from the second half of the corner that the goal came out. 

With Zubkov completely unmarked between Stuart Dallas and Paddy McNair to get a free header.

Zubkov came in from the left-back and hit Yaremchuk, who looked to be scoring points. Before Peacock-Farrell filed the final claim down and denied it, though Zubkov was later considered offside.

The Baraclough men had to work very hard to stop Ukraine from doubling their lead prematurely. 

Shane Ferguson works as a left-back in building Northern Ireland 3-5-2 – blocking Yarmolenko’s drive with a very good last block. 

And not long after, the same player just fired wide with a shot—a good curler.

After keeping their shape well, Northern Ireland almost took an unexpected equalizer in 36 minutes. 

When McNair brought a completely free-kick from the right where Brown got up to face a solid header. But he was denied a good save from Heorhiy Bushchan.

Northern Ireland threatens a strong second half.

With the big tournament so close, it is probably not surprising that Ukraine’s status and power have declined in the second half. 

And Northern Ireland has benefited as they have enjoyed more control.

A few times recently, Baraclough has gone with a quick winger. This time McGinn ahead of Josh Magennis despite having such talented talents as Liam Boyce and Kyle Lafferty on the bench.

McGinn struggled to impact and was replaced by Jordan Thompson during the break. 

Northern Ireland threatens a strong second half (Source: Belfast News Letter)
Northern Ireland threatens a strong second half (Source: Belfast News-Letter)

With the Stoke City man looking confident and into the ball more often. Or less close to Magennis than he could have been.

Ali McCann has worked hard on what captain Steven Davis is often caught in the middle of the third half. 

And the St Johnstone man was able to advance to the middle of the second period. 

Before his head from the Dallas cross went off the wrong side.

Lafferty and Paul Smyth both left off the bench. And Lafferty played clever football inside to the front line of Linfield. 

But he pulled the trigger just before Peacock-Farrell did another good thing and was saved by Yarmolenko.

Besyedin’s substitute thought he had made it 2-0 in the last minute of the match. 

But his touchdown was said to have gone unnoticed. After 19 center-half of Chelsea’s 19-year-old Sam McClelland started his first game in Northern Ireland.

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