Q Radio Sport
Northern Ireland produced a performance of superb defensive discipline to hold European champions Italy to a 0-0 draw and send them into the World Cup play-offs.
Ian Baraclough's side saved their best performance of his reign for the last game of their World Cup qualifying campaign, and should have won late on with Conor Washington denied a last-minute goal by Leonardo Bonucci's goal-line clearance.
The Green and White Army had to be strong at the back and their five-man rearguard restricted an uninspired Italy to a number of half-chances in Belfast, with Federico Chiesa twice going close and Lorenzo Insigne's curling effort easily saved.
HT: @FIFAWorldCup qualifier@NorthernIreland 0@Azzurri_En 0— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) November 15, 2021
No goals so far but what an atmosphere - Windsor Park is rocking! European champs Italy need to win to be sure of a place at #Qatar2022, but NI mean business - heroic stuff 1-11 🙌👏👏 Huge 45 ahead. #GAWA pic.twitter.com/TIriaZ1g8b
FT: @FIFAWorldCup qualifier@NorthernIreland 0@Azzurri_En 0— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) November 15, 2021
Magnificent NI could have won it at Windsor. Euro champs Italy now face a play-off for a place at #Qatar2022. Ian Baraclough's men finish campaign on a high, great hope for the future #GAWA - best in the world!🙌😍 pic.twitter.com/6EVHkz3NQh
The full-time whistle was greeted with huge cheers from the capacity home crowd at the end of a profitable international break for Northern Ireland, whose four points from their final two games of qualifying have restored the belief around Baraclough's side, earning them a third-placed finish in Group C and allowing Switzerland to leapfrog Italy and qualify automatically for Qatar 2022.
🎥 .@NorthernIreland created several clear-cut chances, with close shaves like this when they ripped through the famed @Azzurri_En defence with @LUFC star @dallas_stuart a whisker away from a winner.👇 What a goal this would have been!#GAWA #Azzurri #WCQ pic.twitter.com/LS3sImSJGd— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) November 15, 2021
"If they had won the game, we wouldn't have been saying that was daylight robbery, they covered the ground well and broke pretty well in the second half," former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon told Sky Sports after one of the most impressive performances at Windsor Park for some time.
🎥 .@NorthernIreland boss Ian Baraclough proud as punch 🤜 with his players “this team gets better & better.” And an Italy legend pays the ultimate accolade to NI - “that was an Italian defence!” Have a 👀👇 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/hHEsmzdGlT— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) November 15, 2021