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Northern Ireland 1 Austria 2: Last-gasp winner denies hosts maiden Nations League point

By Opta
Valentino Lazaro- cropped

Belfast, Nov 19: Northern Ireland's difficult Nations League campaign ended in crushing disappointment as Austria scored in the 93rd minute to snatch a 2-1 win in Belfast on Sunday (November 18).

Valentino Lazaro curled a delightful finish into the top corner with almost the last kick of the game to ensure Michael O'Neill's men finished without a point at the foot of Group 3 of League B.

Neither side was able to catch promoted Bosnia-Herzegovina and the contest reflected its dead-rubber status until Xaver Schlager's clinical 49th-minute opener.

Corry Evans looked to have given the already-relegated hosts reason to cheer when he ended Northern Ireland's three-match scoreless run with an equaliser, but they were ultimately dealt a fourth successive competitive defeat by Lazaro's perfectly timed first international goal.

O'Neill not a fan of Nations League

Michael O'Neill wants Northern Ireland to "forget the Nations League was ever invented" as Sunday's loss left them without a point from all four games.

"We got punished at the end. Stuart could have put the ball out of play and the game was over," he said.

"It was a fantastic finish that separates the teams. It is very sickening to lose the game like that.

"There are more positives than negatives. We just have to forget the Nations League was ever invented and be ready to go again in March."

Despite recent setbacks, O'Neill has overseen a period of marked improvement with the national side, guiding them to the knock-out phase at Euro 2016 and narrowly missing out on a spot at this year's World Cup.

With that in mind, O'Neill remains confident that Northern Ireland's future is bright.

"We watched from the outside for so long, in terms of going to tournaments, and we never realistically believed we would be back," he said. "France changed that. The road to Russia changed that. We need a similar campaign in the next Euro qualifiers.

"The team is ready to compete. You could have a wonderful Nations League campaign and start believing you are in a better position than you are. I believe the boys are capable of mounting another big challenge again in the qualifiers."

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    Story first published: Monday, November 19, 2018, 0:40 [IST]
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