UEFA Nations League - Group B1
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland0AustriaAustria1

Nations League: Northern Ireland 0-1 Austria

By Mark SterlingBBC Sport NI at Windsor Park
Michael Gregoritsch scores
Michael Gregoritsch's first half header was the difference between the sides in Belfast

Northern Ireland's poor Nations League form continued as a toothless performance saw them lose 1-0 to Austria at Windsor Park.

The visitors were dominant throughout and could have been three goals up before Michael Gregoritsch's 42nd-minute winner.

The 600 home supporters created a good atmosphere in the south Belfast stadium despite the hosts' poor showing.

Substitute Liam Boyce nearly grabbed a draw for NI in injury time but his fine strike from a well-worked set-piece went just wide.

Ian Baraclough's men are away to Norway in their next Nations League outing on Wednesday.

The loss in Belfast came three days after NI secured a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Bosnia in Thursday's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Sarajevo.

Austria
Austria have defeated Northern Ireland three times since 2018

Having drawn with Romania before getting hammered by Norway in their opening two League B Group One games in September, NI are now bottom of the group after three matches.

It means Northern Ireland have now won just one point in seven Nations League matches since the competition was launched in autumn 2018.

Gregoritsch's goal arrived three minutes before the break after good work on the left by the lively David Alaba. He pulled it back to Martin Hinteregger and his cross was headed home past Michael McGovern, who started in goal in place of Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

In Sunday's other game in the group, Norway overwhelmed Romania in a 4-0 win.

Supporters on song as dominant Austria waste chances

As off the pace as Northern Ireland looked on the pitch, the 600 home supporters spread out across the Windsor Park stands did all they could to encourage Baraclough's men.

Having won the chance to attend through an Irish FA ticket ballot, they were in full voice from moments before kick-off. For the first half hour in particular, and led as ever by the Kop Stand, they created a decent atmosphere in a stadium that usually houses a bouncing 18,000-strong crowd.

NI fans
600 Northern Ireland fans did not get the result they were looking for on their return to Windsor Park

Unfortunately for Ian Baraclough, it did not have the desired effect as his players, just three days after that euphoric win over Bosnia, could not match the visitors' ability to keep the ball.

Indeed, they were lucky to go in at half-time only one goal down as Austria wasted three fantastic chances to take the lead before Gregoritsch's 42nd-minute header.

Christoph was the biggest culprit, looking over casual and curling wide when clean through and then firing over from close-range, with Martin Hinteregger failing to score from an easy headed chance earlier in the half.

Attacking line-up fails to fire

Pacy wingers Jordan Jones and Gavin Whyte came off the bench to positively impact the victory over Bosnia, and it looked like a sign of attacking intent when they both appeared in the Northern Ireland starting line-up.

Jones looked lively for the first 10 minutes and Whyte combined occasionally down the right with Conor McLaughlin, but neither were able to get the ball at their feet and run at the Austrian defence as the visitors dominated possession.

Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty is without an international goal since November 2016

Lafferty, who did his job in Sarajevo by scoring a penalty in the shoot-out after coming off the bench, was also handed a start by Baraclough.

However, an ineffective performance from the Reggina man meant he never looked like ending an international goal drought during play that stretches back to November 2016.

Lafferty was replaced by Washington midway through the second half but he failed to get into the game, while Stuart Dallas, moved into midfield after an outstanding full-back performance on Thursday night, spent most of the night trying to close the Austrians down along with captain Steven Davis and Paddy McNair.

Jonny Evans, who played the full 90 minutes at centre-half, forced a save from Pavao Pervan with a header in the second half, but it was Boyce's excellent strike late on that had the small crowd on their feet.

Cause for concern but Euros still the main goal

While there were five personnel changes in the starting line-up from Sarajevo, those players that came in all have significant international experience.

It must have concerned Baraclough how totally dominant in possession Austria were from the start of the match, especially in midfield, where NI's trio of Davis, McNair and Dallas were not able to get a foothold in the game.

The new manager will also be hoping that Newcastle left-back Jamal Lewis, who has impressed since his international debut in this competition two years ago, does not have too many nights in a Northern Ireland shirt as below par as he was.

Lewis
Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis was among those in green who struggled to his their usual heights

It was also worryingly evident that NI went 68 minutes without registering a single effort on goal until Evans' header, something that has rarely happened at Windsor in recent years, even against teams ranked much higher than Austria.

That all said, it could be argued that a flat performance was perhaps inevitable after how draining the penalties win over Bosnia must have been for the players - mentally as well as physically.

Baraclough will now have to think about he deploys his squad for Wednesday's trip to Oslo, and will be conscious of the need to rest some players while building a positive momentum ahead of next month's Euro 2020 play-off final against Slovakia in Belfast.

Qualifying for the Euros will have been front and centre of the manager's remit when he got the job in June, and plotting a course to next summer's rescheduled finals will no dominate his short and longer-term planning.

Player of the match

GregoritschMichael Gregoritsch

with an average of 8.36

Northern Ireland

  1. Squad number14Player nameDallas
    Average rating

    6.74

  2. Squad number8Player nameDavis
    Average rating

    6.17

  3. Squad number9Player nameBoyce
    Average rating

    5.63

  4. Squad number19Player nameJones
    Average rating

    5.56

  5. Squad number10Player nameLafferty
    Average rating

    5.36

  6. Squad number5Player nameEvans
    Average rating

    5.19

  7. Squad number15Player nameThompson
    Average rating

    5.06

  8. Squad number1Player nameMcGovern
    Average rating

    5.06

  9. Squad number20Player nameCathcart
    Average rating

    4.96

  10. Squad number16Player nameWashington
    Average rating

    4.92

  11. Squad number3Player nameLewis
    Average rating

    4.91

  12. Squad number13Player nameEvans
    Average rating

    4.87

  13. Squad number21Player nameMagennis
    Average rating

    4.75

  14. Squad number17Player nameMcNair
    Average rating

    4.49

  15. Squad number18Player nameWhyte
    Average rating

    4.43

  16. Squad number2Player nameMcLaughlin
    Average rating

    4.42

Austria

  1. Squad number11Player nameGregoritsch
    Average rating

    8.36

  2. Squad number12Player namePervan
    Average rating

    8.31

  3. Squad number4Player nameHinteregger
    Average rating

    7.92

  4. Squad number21Player nameLainer
    Average rating

    7.85

  5. Squad number14Player nameBaumgartlinger
    Average rating

    7.83

  6. Squad number23Player nameSchlager
    Average rating

    7.79

  7. Squad number3Player nameDragovic
    Average rating

    7.71

  8. Squad number6Player nameIlsanker
    Average rating

    7.64

  9. Squad number19Player nameBaumgartner
    Average rating

    7.58

  10. Squad number7Player nameGrbic
    Average rating

    7.36

  11. Squad number15Player nameRanftl
    Average rating

    6.83

  12. Squad number8Player nameAlaba
    Average rating

    6.72

  13. Squad number16Player nameTrimmel
    Average rating

    6.67

Line-ups

Northern Ireland

  • 1McGovern
  • 2McLaughlinBooked at 78mins
  • 20Cathcart
  • 5Evans
  • 3Lewis
  • 8DavisSubstituted forEvansat 73'minutes
  • 14DallasSubstituted forThompsonat 73'minutesBooked at 86mins
  • 18WhyteSubstituted forBoyceat 83'minutes
  • 17McNairSubstituted forMagennisat 83'minutes
  • 19Jones
  • 10LaffertySubstituted forWashingtonat 61'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Flanagan
  • 6Smith
  • 7McGinn
  • 9Boyce
  • 11Ferguson
  • 12Carson
  • 13Evans
  • 15Thompson
  • 16Washington
  • 21Magennis
  • 22Ballard
  • 23Peacock-Farrell

Austria

  • 12Pervan
  • 21Lainer
  • 3Dragovic
  • 4Hinteregger
  • 8Alaba
  • 15RanftlSubstituted forTrimmelat 73'minutes
  • 6Ilsanker
  • 14Baumgartlinger
  • 19Baumgartner
  • 11GregoritschSubstituted forGrbicat 80'minutes
  • 23SchlagerBooked at 90mins

Substitutes

  • 1Lindner
  • 2Ullmann
  • 5Posch
  • 7Grbic
  • 9Kalajdzic
  • 10Grillitsch
  • 13Siebenhandl
  • 16Trimmel
  • 17Holzhauser
  • 18Schöpf
  • 20Onisiwo
  • 22Schaub
Referee:
Petr Ardeleanu
Attendance:
600

Match Stats

Home TeamNorthern IrelandAway TeamAustria
Possession
Home44%
Away56%
Shots
Home3
Away13
Shots on Target
Home1
Away5
Corners
Home3
Away5
Fouls
Home13
Away11

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Northern Ireland 0, Austria 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 0, Austria 1.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Liam Boyce (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Jordan Thompson following a set piece situation.

  4. Booking

    Xaver Schlager (Austria) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  5. Post update

    Foul by Xaver Schlager (Austria).

  6. Post update

    Jordan Thompson (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  7. Booking

    Jordan Thompson (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  8. Post update

    Xaver Schlager (Austria) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Post update

    Foul by Jordan Thompson (Northern Ireland).

  10. Post update

    Foul by Xaver Schlager (Austria).

  11. Post update

    Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  12. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland. Liam Boyce replaces Gavin Whyte.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland. Josh Magennis replaces Patrick McNair.

  14. Post update

    Stefan Ilsanker (Austria) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Corry Evans (Northern Ireland).

  16. Substitution

    Substitution, Austria. Adrian Grbic replaces Michael Gregoritsch.

  17. Booking

    Conor McLaughlin (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  18. Post update

    Christoph Baumgartner (Austria) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  19. Post update

    Foul by Conor McLaughlin (Northern Ireland).

  20. Post update

    Foul by Stefan Lainer (Austria).

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