Football: Bingham's battlers stay in contention

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The Independent Online
Albania . . . . . .1

Northern Ireland. .2

THE players of Northern Ireland took heed of their manager's warning that anything but victory would ruin their hopes of reaching the World Cup finals next year, and battled to a worthy win over Albania in Tirana yesterday.

'That was a very competent and professional performance,' Billy Bingham said. 'We played well and broke out beautifully. If we had finished off what we created, we could have scored four or five.' His side had to settle for two, however, scored by Jim Magilton and Alan McDonald.

Magilton shot the Irish ahead after 14 minutes, after playing a neat one-two with Iain Dowie. McDonald, the captain, added another seven minutes before half- time, heading in at the far post after Dowie had flicked on a corner by Magilton.

Tommy Wright saved a penalty from Sulejman Demollari in the 77th minute, after a handling offence by Magilton, but the Newcastle goalkeeper was beaten just before time by Altin Raklli, giving Albania a deserved goal. Northern Ireland are now third in Group Three, level on points with the Republic of Ireland.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Wright (Newcastle); Fleming (Barnsley), Morrow (Arsenal), Taggart (Barnsley), McDonald (Queen's Park Rangers), Donaghy (Chelsea), Magilton (Oxford), O'Neill (Dundee United), Dowie (Southampton), Gray (Luton), Black (Nottingham Forest). Substitute: Quinn (Reading) for Dowie, 73.

ALBANIA: Kapllani (Teuta Durres); Zmijani (Ajaccio), Kacaj (Athinaikos), Bano (Partizan Tirana), Vata (Celtic), Bozgo (Tomori Berat), Lekbello (Aris Salonika), Fortuzi (Dinamo Tirana), Abazi (Graz AK), Raklli (Freiburg), Demollari (Dinamo Bucharest). Substitutes: Peqini (Elbasani), for Zmijani, 45; Shulku (Partizan Tirana), for Lekbello, 45.

Referee: V Bogdanov (Bul).