Sports

UEFA Nations League: Bosnia punish sloppy Northern Ireland

Belfast, sep 8 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 9/8/2018 12:17:44 PM IST

Bosnia rode their luck before goals from Haris Duljevic and Elvis Saric got their Nations League campaign started with a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Robert Prosinecki’s side were under pressure for long periods at Windsor Park, but broke out to snatch the lead through Duljevic late in the first half.

Saric doubled Bosnia’s lead in the second half after Michael O’Neill’s team squandered more opportunities to get on the scoresheet.

Will Grigg reduced the deficit in stoppage-time, but Northern Ireland have now won only one of their last eight matches.

That disappointing streak includes their painful World Cup play-off defeat against Switzerland, a loss that ended their hopes of a first appearance in the tournament for 32 years.

As they try to make amends for that heartache, the Nations League offers a potential route to the Euro 2020 finals, alongside the traditional qualifying tournament that starts in March 2019.

Northern Ireland will also face Austria in Group B3 of the new competition.

The three countries will play each other home and away during September, October and November as they chase promotion to Group A.

Northern Ireland’s early pressure brought a rejected penalty appeal when Middlesbrough midfielder George Saville was sent tumbling by Ervin Zukanovic, while Stuart Dallas blasted narrowly wide from long-range.

Out-played in the opening half hour, Bosnia finally mounted an incisive attack as Edin Visca picked out Roma striker Dzeko in the Northern Ireland area.

Bosnia captain Dzeko met the pass with a stinging shot that tested Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

England-born Peacock-Farrell was making his first competitive start for Northern Ireland after recently pledging his future to the country.

But the 21-year-old could do nothing to prevent Bosnia taking the lead in the 37th minute.

When Conor McLaughlin failed to prevent Dzeko crossing towards the near post, Duljevic took full advantage as the winger flicked home from close-range.

Northern Ireland should have been level when Dallas volleyed over with the goal at his mercy, while Kyle Lafferty shot straight at Ibrahim Sehic.

Bosnia made the most of their fortune in the 65th minute when Craig Cathcart’s header back to Peacock-Farrell fell short of the hesitant keeper and Saric nipped in to slot home.

Wigan forward Grigg converted Ollie Norwood’s pass deep into stoppage-time, but it was too late to salvage a draw.

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