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10 September 2013
• Stade Josy Barthel, Lëtzebuerg (Luxembourg)
Referee: R. Malek
• Attendance: 4114
A. Joachim 45'+
S. Bensi 78'
M. Jänisch 87'
M. Paterson 14'
G. McAuley 82'
90' + 3'
Yellow CardGareth McAuley
90' + 3'
FULL-TIME: It's all over, and what an incredible game that was.It's an incredible result, too, for Luxembourg who have won their first competitive clash since September 2011.Goals from Aurelien Joachim, Stefano Bensi and the late, late Mathias Janisch strike secured the unlikeliest of wins for the minnows despite Martin Paterson's excellently-taken opener and Gareth McAuley's headed equaliser.Make no mistake about it, however, this is as crushing a blow to Michael O'Neill and his side as you could get and they will have to now ensure they get a result in their two tricky away trips to Azerbaijan and Israel if they are to avoid finishing bottom of the group.
Luxembourg make a change directly after the goal as Daniel da Mota is replaced by Ante Bukvic.Northern Ireland go in search of a second equaliser and Martin Paterson fires over the bar with an acrobatic effort before Jamie Ward volleys high over the bar.
D. da Mota
GOAL! This second half has been incredible, Luxembourg take the lead again as Mathias Janisch fires home after a goalmouth scramble ensues from a corner.Northern Ireland fail to clear their lines and up pops the left-back to crash home the cruelest of blows to Michael O'Neill's side.
GOAL! Just when it all looked as if Northern Ireland had thrown it away, theya are back in it as Gareth McAuley climbs above his marker to nod into the corner. This game has been the epitome of an end-to-end contest to say the very least.
GOAL! Just like Northern Ireland's goal in the first half, this has come completely against the run of play as Luxembourg steal a late lead here.Stefano Bensi has made the difference this evening and there is a sense of inevitability about his devastating finish as he strides clear of the Northern Irish midfield before sending a low drive into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
Daniel da Mota is felled by Michael O'Connor and offers Lars Gerson a chance to strike from range but his free kick sails over the bar.Who will get the winner in this tense finale?
The momentum has swung in favour of Michael O'Neill's men.This time, Jamie Ward, who has grown into the game, unleashes a wild effort from 35 yards out but the intention is there for all to see from the Northern Irish, who have recovered from a bad end to the first half and a bad start to the second period.
Northern Ireland look certain to score but sub Billy McKay somehow misses the target with the goal at his mercy. Clever link-up play between McKay and Martin Paterson left the former through on goal and, after rounding the keeper, appeared as if he was about to re-estabish his side's advantage.But the Inverness striker took one too many touches before firing his right-footed striker against the outside of the post.
The sting has been taken out of the game somewhat in the last five minutes as we have a brief break in play as David Turpel goes in late on Roy Carroll.The hosts bring on Antonio Luisi to replace Turpel while Carroll receives treatment.
The visitors are screaming for a penalty but the referee is not impressed by the Northern Irish protests as Jamie Ward appears to be tripped on the far byline.Michael O'Neill will be impressed with the way his side have reacted in the last five minutes.
Martin Paterson does well to force a corner on the left after the frontman latches onto a diagonal cross-field ball. The resulting set piece falls at the feet of Jonny Evans but the Manchester United central defender cannot steer home at the near post, despite getting two bites of the cherry.
Northern Ireland nearly muster an opportunity as Gareth McAuley's header from out wide into the six-yard box creates havoc for the Luxembourg defence.
Really comical defending from Northern Ireland results in an indirect free-kick for the hosts in the area.Gareth McAuley sloppily scoops a ball back to Roy Carroll who, under pressure, contrives to chest the ball down before picking it up.Stefano Bensi steps up and sends a stinging strike whistling inches past the upright. Northern Ireland are clinging on by a thread here.
Yellow CardAurelien Joachim
Oliver Norwood finally gives the Northern Ireland supporters something to shout about as he sends a snapshot just wide. Luxembourg, though, continue to pose the biggest threat in a disappointing performance from Michael O'Neill's side.
Luxembourg start the second half as they ended the first - on top.Stefano Bensi's ambitious strike zips wide for a corner before a number of crosses in succession test Roy Carroll and his backline.
Luxembourg get us back underway here in the World Cup Group F qualifier.
45' + 2'
45' + 2'
GOAL! Luxembourg level with the last kick of the half as Aurelien Joachim grabs the equaliser the hosts' first-half endeavours have deserved.After Michael O'Neill's side get caught on the counter, David Turpel strides through the middle before releasing Joachim with a precise pass before the winger's angled effort deflects wickedly off Daniel Lafferty; leaving Roy Carroll stranded and Northern Ireland despondent just before the interval.
Jonny Evans surges out of defence to lead the Northern Ireland breakaway and forces a succession of corners.The closest they come to a second is through Oliver Norwood, whose volley from a corner is batted aside by Jonathan Joubert.
This time it is David Turpel's turn to have an effort on goal, as his low strike from range is turned aside by Roy Carroll, who will undoubtedly be becoming concerned with the amount of goalmouth action at his end of the pitch.
Roy Carroll is forced into a smart stop to deny the ever-threatening Stefano Bensi.The winger cuts in from the left and stings the palms of the Northern Ireland stopper before Jonny Evans deals well with Daniel da Mota's long throw. One-way traffic just now.
All starting to go slightly pear-shaped for the Northern Irish, with Niall McGinn, who passed a late fitness test ahead of this clash, having to be replaced by Rotherham's Michael O'Connor in another blow to Michael O'Neill and his side.But, let's not forget, they are still in the lead here, if not in the ascendency.
Michael O'Neill is visibly furious with his men, who have become wasteful in possession and are lucky to still be in front.Sloppy defending from the normally reliable Jonny Evans allows Aurelien Joachim to win a corner, which is eventually cleared by Northern Ireland, who must be hoping half time comes sooner rather than later at this point.
Luxembourg starting to get on top now and come even closer to a leveller as Lars Gerson smashes the woodwork.Another well-worked move from the hosts, this time down the left, finds the central defender 25 yards out but his curling strike comes cannoning back off Roy Carroll's crossbar, with the former Manchester United keeper standing no chance.
Mario Mutsch has been the brightest spark in the Luxembourg side and almost helps his side to an equaliser.The stalwart's burst of acceleration through the middle of park leads to a poor challenge from Jamie Ward and from the ensuing set piece, Stefano Bensi catches the ball sweetly but fails to direct it on target.
And that strategy almost works just moments later as Martin Paterson comes close to his second of the evening.The ball falls invitingly for the striker on the right-hand side of the 18-yard box but his attempted lobbed effort over the keeper is a rushed one, which sails over the bar. Encouraging response from the Green and White Army.
Joubert races out of his goal to thwart the onrushing Jamie Ward after Gareth McAuley sends a searching ball downfield to relieve some of the pressure and momentum being built up by the home side.The visitors are becoming increasingly reliant on the counter to get at the hosts' defence.
Luxembourg try to respond immediately as Chris Philipps' drive from the edge of the area is collected by Roy Carroll.The home side have enjoyed some of their most promising moves down the right flank. They attack again but are let down by Daniel Da Mota's slip on the byline as the greasy surface takes its toll.
GOAL! Northern Ireland lead, somewhat against the run of play, though, it must be said.Steven Davis' sliderule pass is collected by Martin Paterson who advanced beyond the defence before bending a powerful finish past a stunned Jonathan Joubert to give Michael O'Neill's side a precious advantage.
The hosts could, and perhaps should be in front.Mario Mutsch's corner from the right is met by the head of Lars Gerson, who stole a yard on his marker Daniel Lafferty but could not direct his attempt on target.Stefano Bensi then almost tricks his way through the visitor's backline but could not find a final pass.It has been a bright start from the hosts here.
Northern Ireland are the next to register a shot as Niall McGinn, an injury doubt for this game, runs at the home defence before unleashing an effort which zips just wide of the far post.Moments later McGinn's pinpoint delivery finds Martin Paterson's head but, despite some initial hesitancy from both the goalkeeper and defender, Luxembourg just about dealt with the danger.
Daniel Da Mota, who scored the late equaliser in the corresponding fixture at Windsor Park almost a year to the day ago, is the first to properly try his luck.Cutting in from range, the striker with Portuguese descent let fly but his long-range effort was wayward, with Roy Carroll having it covered at his far post.
Luxembourg are the first to threaten as they force a corner when Lee Hodson has to head behind.Oliver Norwood does well to clear from the resulting corner in a surprisingly fast-paced opening to the game.
Northern Ireland kick off and get us underway here in Luxembourg.
And the substitutes...Luxembourg: Oberweis, Delgado, Bastos Bukvic, Hoffman, Luisi, Malget, Peters.Northern Ireland: McGovern, Baird, Shiels, C Evans, McArdle, Grigg, Bruce, Magennis, McKay, O'Connor, McKeow, Devlin.
Here are tonight's teams.Luxembourg: Joubert; Laterza, Philipps, Gerson, Janisch; Jans, Mutsch, Turpel; Bensi, Da Mota, Joachim. Northern Ireland: Carroll; Hodson, McAuley, J Evans, D Lafferty; Norwood, Davis; McGinn, Ward, Ferguson; Paterson.
Both sides have the same record across their last five games - including friendlies and qualifiers - one win, two draws and two defeats.Northern Ireland's win came in the impressive 1-0 triumph over Russia at Windsor Park.
Luxembourg are without a win but have picked up three points, including a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture thanks to a late leveller from Daniel da Mota.The minnows have not won a competitive international since their 2-1 success over Albania in September 2011.
This is the first of Northern Ireland's triple header of games away from home as the World Cup qualification for 2014 draws to a close. Could the visitors even catch Israel in third after their 3-1 defeat to Russia earlier?Israel are still six points ahead of their closest competitors but will be wary of O'Neill's side given they travel to the group's whipping boys this evening before trips to Azerbaijan and finally Tel-Aviv.
Waiting for official confirmation of the teams but the good news for Michael O'Neill and his men is the return of Burnley full-back Daniel Lafferty from suspension as he replaces West Brom's Chris Brunt, who was sent off himself in the 4-2 reverse to Portugal on Friday night.Kyle Lafferty was also given his marching orders after a reckless challenge as the Green and White Army went down to Cristiano Ronaldo's devastating second-half hat-trick.O'Neill is expected to be further boosted by Shane Ferguson, Niall McGinn and Jamie Ward all proving their fitness to start this evening.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE commentary for tonight's World Cup Group F qualifier between Luxembourg and Northern Ireland. This match could be considered something of a dead rubber given that neither can qualify for the finals in Brazil but Michael O'Neill's side will be looking to consolidate their fourth-placed position in the group standings tonight.
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