Carroll slip proves costly

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The Independent Football

Thordur Gudjonsson scored in the final minute here last night to wreck Northern Ireland's unbeaten start to their World Cup qualifying campaign in Group Three.

Thordur Gudjonsson scored in the final minute here last night to wreck Northern Ireland's unbeaten start to their World Cup qualifying campaign in Group Three.

The Northern Ireland goalkeeper, Roy Carroll, came for a free-kick by Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnsen, but missed it, leaving Watford's Heidar Helguson to head the ball over him and Gudjonsson nodded it into the empty net.

Iceland have a formidable record at this tiny stadium, beating Russia here and holding France during their creditable Euro 2000 qualifying campaign. They were determined to register their first points after losing their opening two World Cup qualifiers but Northern Ireland, who have not won a competitive away game for five years, weathered their brief early flurry and began to pass their way back into the game.

That good work was almost undone when Jim Magilton gave the ball to Thordur Gudjonsson 30 yards from goal. Iceland worked it to their top scorer, Rikhardur Dadason, but he shot weakly at Carroll.

Gerry Taggart then missed an excellent chance. David Healy won a free-kick 30 yards out, Magilton flighted a low ball to the left of the area and Taggart controlled it but he stabbed it wide with his weaker right foot from only five yards out.

The tide then turned Gudjohnsen forced a save from Carroll after 28 minutes and then shot wide as Iceland stepped up the pressure. Gudjohnsson earned a corner from which Dadason shot just too high.

Northern Ireland were making no impression on Iceland's defence and Birkir Kristinsson was untroubled in the home goal. At the other end Carroll remained busy, blocking a shot from Dadason before diving on the rebound.

Something had to give; it was just galling for Northern Ireland that the decisive goal came so late.

Iceland: Kristinsson; Helgason; Sverrisson, Hreidarsson, Vidarsson, Thordur Gudjonsson, Gunnarsson, Kristinsson (Gretarsson, h-t), Helguson, Gudjohnsen, Dadason (Sigurdsson, 62).

Northern Ireland: Carroll; Lomas, A Hughes, Taggart (Williams, h-t), Murdock, Lennon, Johnson, Magilton, Healy, Horlock, Elliott (Gray, 82).

Referee: M Merk (Ger).

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