Northern Ireland fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Hungary in a largely low-key friendly international in Belfast

March 30th, 2022

Northern Ireland fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Hungary in a largely low-key friendly international in Belfast.

A Niall McGinn error early in the second half led to Roland Sallai scoring what proved to be the winner, despite a late rally from the hosts.

NI captain Steven Davis hit a post and McGinn had an effort well saved by Denes Dibusz in the first half.

Dibusz also denied home substitute Dion Charles in injury time.

The ball fell to the Bolton Wanderers striker in the six-yard box but, as he swivelled and shot, the visiting keeper made a fine block to ensure his side survived a final 10 minutes of extensive Northern Ireland pressure.

Charles’ close-range effort was the last last of a flurry of late chances for the hosts, with George Saville having a header saved just before young Sunderland full-back Trai Hume almost marked his debut with a memorable goal, but his header could also not beat Dibusz.

Hungary’s crucial goal arrived in the 55th minute when experienced winger McGinn seemed to under-hit a backpass which allowed Sallai to get to the ball before goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and take it round him before sliding into an empty net.

The defeat follows Northern Ireland’s 3-1 friendly win away to Luxembourg on Friday night and completes their preparations for their Nations League campaign, which begins at home to Greece on 2 June before a trip to Cyprus three days later.

It also brings to an end a three-match unbeaten run that included a home victory over Lithuania and an impressive scoreless draw with Italy in World Cup qualifying before the Luxembourg victory.

Fleetwood Town’s Paddy Lane, 21, joined Hume in making his senior debut, starting the game on the left flank but struggling to make an impact, with Sunderland full-back Hume coming on as a late substitute just a few months after moving to the League One side from Linfield.

Baraclough tweaks system but NI fail to fire

With 3-5-2 having very much become Northern Ireland manager Baraclough’s formation of choice, his side started this friendly in what looked more like a 3-4-3 shape, with McGinn and Gavin Whyte playing either side of Magennis in a front three.

It meant 21-year-old debutant Lane playing on the left side of the middle four, with the ever-versatile Paddy McNair on the right, and captain Davis and Ali McCann in the middle.

Lane, in the senior squad for the first time after impressing for the Under 21s, worked hard out wide but struggled to make any real impact going forward and spend most of the half tracking runners as the Hungarians looked to get in down their right hand side.

It was a fairly drab opening half, with both sides enjoying decent possession but neither showing any great urgency – though the hosts did have the capacity crowd on their feet on two occasions as they came desperately close to opening the scoring.

On 11 minutes, Rangers midfielder Davis – who moved into the top 100 all-time international appearance makers by winning his 134th cap – almost made the visitors pay when he latched on to a stray pass and, with goalkeeper Dibusz off his line, hit an audacious curler with the outside of his right foot that struck the outside of the post.

McGinn nearly broke the deadlock four minutes before the interval after Whyte got on to a Magennis flick-on to feed him with a pass, but the winger’s shot was tipped round the post.

The second half brought a host of substitutions but it was only in the final 10 minutes that Northern Ireland showed any real urgency to produce those three big opportunities in the closing stages.


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