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14 November 2012
• Windsor Park, Belfast
Referee: V. Shvetsov
• Attendance: 12327
D. Healy 90'+
R. Äliyev 5'
And with that, I bid you goodnight. Thank you for joining me for the commentary and I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time.
And a final word from Chris Teale: "David Healy spares Michael O'Neill's blushes as his Northern Ireland side manage to just about sneak a draw. They created numerous chances but could not convert them at all, to the frustration of their fans. Those frustrations were only increased by Azerbaijan's play-acting, which was key in stopping any momentum for the home side. However, this result leaves Northern Ireland in all sorts of trouble in their World Cup qualifying group."
FULL TIME: Well would you Adam and EVE it? What a finish and it is what the hosts deserved. Great goal from the substitute Healy who scores his 35th goal for his country but you can't help but think that if his team mates had been as potent earlier on this game could have gone into double figures. Okay, that's a tiny exaggeration but as it is, Michael O'Neill is still waiting for his first win as the visitors look on devastated.
90' + 6'
GOAL! David Healy you little beauty! Great free-kick from 25 yards out that smashes past the Azerbaijan keeper and saves his team from embarrassment.
90' + 4'
Yellow CardSälahät Ağayev
90' + 3'
Despite this dose of charity from the match officials the home side still cannot force an equaliser.
90' + 2'
Yellow CardDavid Healy
90' + 2'
Yellow CardJavid Huseynov
90' + 1'
Yellow CardDaniel Lafferty
SIX MINUTES OF ADDED TIME!! The match official must have a good sense of humour. The hosts need to take full advantage of this gift of injury time.
If the scoreline stays as it is, this will be an embarassment, not only for Michael O'Neill and his side, but for the fans who have been outstanding tonight. Shame their side haven't been clinical to reward them.
My main man Chris Teale on the final few minutes of the game: "Northern Ireland are increasing the pressure, but Azerbaijan are standing firm, with the help of some ridiculous play-acting. The old 'Help me, I have cramp' trick is in full use from the away side."
Brunt lines up a free-kick but it is as tame effort and the keeper hold it to his chest. To quote Muse, Time is running out.
Fingers crossed that Healy can be the saviour for the home side tonight. They have sorely missed his finishing skills all evening.
Baird receives a booking and will miss Northern Ireland's next game. Disappointment for the home side who have lacked inspiration all night as David Healy perpares himself for action on the touchline.
Yellow CardChris Baird
Another roar of frustration from the crowd as another player for the visitors falls to the floor cradling his head. Are Azerbaijan really playing for time with ten minutes to go?
Azerbaijan have been stubborn tonight. They struck early and have had no other worthy chances to speak of since. Will they condemn the home side to defeat?
The crowd are getting restless, imploring their team forward but that elusive victory is looking distant. A catalogue of misses in this game could take up most of the run time of a goals and gaffs DVD!
Well, one things for certain. At least this game is no longer a bore as Northern Ireland try to break even. They deserve it on chances alone.
CHANCE! Chris Baird has his head in his hands again. Beating the offside trap, he meets an exqusite cross from the left and heads it wide. Do Northern Ireland want to score tonight? Another golden chance wasted by a shoddy finish.
Yellow CardRauf Aliyev
Aliyev is giving the elbow there. Literally. His arms were up in the face of the defender and the goalscorer receives a yellow card for his troubles.
Did you see that, Chris Teale?: 'Was that the chance? Shane Ferguson sends in a brilliant cross and Chris Baird is there with a free header from six yards out, but can only send the ball wide of the goal. Michael O'Neill has his head in his hands at that, and Baird knows he really should have scored.'
Aliyev looks dangerous again and Carroll does well to thwart his effort. Carroll for the man of the match award in my book.
Michael O'Neill has his head in his hands as Baird comes in at the far post and headers the ball across goal and wide. Howler.
Roy Carroll, the sweeper? Great awareness from the keeper as he rushes off his line to intercept a through ball. Great stuff from the man between the sticks.
Yellow CardKyle Lafferty
Ferguson is looking lively but we are still waiting for the killer final pass. We could be waiting a long time.
The Windsor Park faithful are doing their best to put any lingering 'sing when you are winning' claims to bed.
Aliyev wins the visitors their first corner on the right and when it is delivered in the box there is confusion at the back until Carroll pounces his gloves on the ball.
Yellow CardVladimir Levin
This is a very scrappy start to the half as the hosts try to haul themselves back into the game.
CHANCE! Northern Ireland, you are doing this on purpose now. Cathcart is free on the six yard line but still manages to convert the ball over the bar. Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud.
The teams emerge on the pitch for the second half separated by a belter from Aliyev, Northern Ireland need to be much better this half to register their first win of the qualifying campaign.
Who here thinks that Michael O'Neill will be giving a half-time team talk of Mike Bassett proportions? Not just me then...
What did you make of that half, Chris Teale?: "Half-time at Windsor Park and the home side trail 1-0 to Azerbaijan. It has not been the greatest half of football in the world, especially from Northern Ireland who have rarely tested the goalkeeper and have struggled to keep the ball. They have had some glorious chances to equalise after Rauf Aliyev’s opener, but have wasted them, to the frustration on manager Michael O’Neill. Meanwhile, their opponents have not quite parked the bus yet, but as this game goes on will definitely start to reduce its speed and move it into position if this score stays the same."
The whistle blows for half-time as the tannoy wakes everybody up with a blast of techno music. Let's hope that also wakes the game up for the second half!
CHANCE! Daniel Lafferty gets forward in the box and heads over but the assistant raises his flag for offside as we enter two minutes of added time.
Half-time calls but Baird fancies a shot from 25 yards, which is gobbled up by the keeper. Northern Ireland need some inspiration from somewhere, anywhere, to get back in this game.
Carroll is put under pressure by his own defender there as Cathcart rushes his back pass and the ex-Manchester United keeper clears.
Yellow CardDean Shiels
Shiels is booked for exaggerating a push in the box. I've seen them given...
Ferguson floats in a free-kick from the right but it is dealt with by the visitors. The final ball has been non-existent in this game from both teams.
Northern Ireland win their third corner of the game and it is swung into McAuley who guides the ball out of play.
CHANCE! Cathcart will not get a better chance than that to open his account. Free in the box, he heads the ball with power towards the bottom right-hand corner and sees his effort fly wide. That seems to have woken up the Windsor Park faithful.
Thankfully, he is okay, and returns to the fold.
Lafferty is hobbling off, aided by the pitchside paramedics. We could be seeing the hosts' first change of the evening any moment.
What do you think, Chris Teale?: "Northern Ireland have finally started testing the goalkeeper in this game, and Niall McGinn is the man who does so as he sends in a shot that is clung on to by goalkeeper Salahat Aghayev. There are over 25 minutes gone here and while the home side are not doing an awful lot wrong, they need to start putting the Azerbaijani defence under more pressure."
I'm not going to lie, there has been very little goalmouth action to speak of. Maybe this game will wake up as we head towards half-time?
Ouch! Late challenge there from Nadirov who is lucky not to see yellow for that.
Some superb defending from Aaron Hughes keeps the visitors at bay as he breaks down an attack at the far post. No further chances to speak of. Yawn.
Berti Vogts' side are knocking it around nicely as the home support find their voices in the cold, harsh night air. They will need to drum up more support to spur their side on here.
CHANCE! Lafferty hits a tame shot from outside the box straight into the arms of the grateful keeper.
If Michael O'Neill is to snatch his first win as Northern Ireland boss tonight they need to stay composed on the ball. At the moment the game is as settling as a sleep over with Michael Myers.
Ireland need to get McGinn on the ball to have a real sniff at goal. My how Lafferty must be regretting his miss earlier!
Although Jonny Evans is missing tonight, there was nothing any of the rear guard could have done to stop Aliyev's effort. The game needs to settle into a pattern now and the home side need to reply soon to give them confidence.
The visitors are defending nervously to keep their hosts out but the home side just can't find a way through at the moment.
Despite their positive start, Michael O'Neill's men will be flattened by that strike. Roy Carroll, indeed the green contigent of the stadium, certainly didn't see that one coming.
GOAL! What a screamer! That was a sweet, bending effort from 25 yards out from Aliyev, that shot had 'I'm in the back of the net' all over it. Windsor Park falls silent.
CHANCE! Lafferty should have buried that. A free header no more than six yards out goes looping over the bar and to safety. Good early pressure from Northern Ireland here.
Shane Ferguson manages to squeeze a corner onto the roof of the net as he makes a positive early run towards goal.
We are underway at Windsor Park.
Windsor Park is not full by any means for this game, but the two teams get a very warm round of applause as they make their way out onto the pitch. Kick-off is just moments away.
Let’s get a word from my colleague, Chris Teale: “Are the green shoots of hope starting to sprout in the minds of Northern Ireland fans? After their heroic draw in Portugal last time out, they might well be. However, Michael O’Neill’s men are still without a win in their group, having been on a 10-match winless run. Interestingly, the same run without a win in 1995 was ended with a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan. Could we see history repeating itself tonight?”
Northern Ireland: Carroll, Hughes, MacAuley, Cathcart, Ferguson,McGinn, Baird, Davis, Brunt, Shiels, Lafferty. SUBS: Mannus, McGovern, Healy, Brunt, Evans.C, McCourt, Norwood, Grigg, McKay, McLaughlin. Azerbaijan: Arhayev; Shukurov, Abbasov, Medvedev, Levin; Chertoganov, Gokdemir, Javadov, Ozkara; Subashic, Nadirov. SUBS: Popovich, Guseynov, Naziri, Sadygov, Javadov, Chertoganov, Subashic, Ahmadov, Mammadov, Pamuk, Nazirov.
Good evening and welcome football fans to the play-by-play commentary of the crucial World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. My name is Hayden Gribble and I will be taking you through all the action as it happens but first, let's get the team news.
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