Occean's header sinks Northen Ireland's hopes

Northern Ireland 0 - Canada 1
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The Independent Football

Northern Ireland continued their dismal run of results at home last night, losing 1-0 here to a 10-man Canada outfit who made better use of fewer opportunities.

Northern Ireland continued their dismal run of results at home last night, losing 1-0 here to a 10-man Canada outfit who made better use of fewer opportunities.

The home side enjoyed much of the possession but proved ineffectual in finding the finishing touch. Northern Ireland have now not won at home since a 3-0 victory over Iceland in September 2001, and last night's efforts did little to boost their confidence ahead of the World Cup qualifier with England on 26 March.

The Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez decided on a 4-5-1 formation but conditions were far from ideal with the wind swirling around the ground. It didn't help either that, when asked, his players fell short with first Tony Capaldi and then David Healy failing with early chances.

Canada were reduced to 10 men in the 22nd minute when Gabriel Gervais picked up his second yellow card in the space of two minutes for rash challenges on Keith Gillespie and then Healy.

Yet, as the home side failed to use their number advantage, Canada struck the first blow after 32 minutes when Jim Brennan whipped in a marvellous free-kick from the left, and Oliver Occean peeled away from his marker to head home.

Northern Ireland should have drawn level in the 38th minute, but Healy managed to head wide in front of the posts.

Sanchez made a host of changes in the second half but despite further chances, Northern Ireland ended the second period as they had the first - frustrated and defeated.

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-5-1): Taylor; Baird, Aaron Hughes, Murdock, McCartney; Gillespie, Whitley, Doherty, Davis, Capaldi; Healy. Substitutes: Carroll, Smith, Kirk, Mulryne, Jones, Williams, Craigan, Clyde.

CANADA (4-4-2): Sutton; Gervais, McKenna, Serioux, Imhof; Occean, Bernier, Brennan, Reda; De Rosario, Simpson. Substitutes: Hutchinson, Hirschfeld, Peters, Klukowski, Hume, Watson.

Referee: J Attard (Malta)

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