Worthington takes positives after letting point slip in Serbia

Serbia 2 Northern Ireland 1

Northern Ireland's Euro 2012 qualification hopes took a heavy blow in Belgrade as they conceded twice in the second half to surrender a hard-earned lead against Group C rivals Serbia last night. Only some brave last-ditch defending stopped them going behind early on, but when Gareth McAuley rose to head home Chris Brunt's cross in the 40th minute a famous victory looked on the cards.

However Serbia, playing in front of a near deserted stadium as a result of crowd trouble against Italy, hit back through Marko Pantelic before Zoran Tosic drilled in the winner.

Despite the damaging defeat Northern Ireland's manager, Nigel Worthington, was full of praise for the way his side went about their work. "I thought it was a tremendous performance," he said. "In the first half the football they played was absolutely exceptional."

Worthington was particularly pleased by the efforts of young midfield duo Johnny Gorman, 18, and Corry Evans, 20. "Both of the boys were fantastic," he said. "Look at Corry on the right ... he was out on his feet with 20 minutes to go but he didn't want to come off.

"Young Gorman on the other side, he was fantastic, too. He was disciplined and controlled with what he was asked to do at the age of 18 against a very good side. I'm thrilled for them and I'm pleased for the team."

The visitors' opener came when Brunt delivered a free-kick from the right, finding McAuley eight yards from goal. The Ipswich defender found the top corner, beating Zeljko Brkic and sending the 265 travelling fans into raptures.

Serbia were shellshocked and almost conceded again when Brunt played in Kyle Lafferty, who took a neat touch before stabbing his shot over.

The second half saw Northern Ireland emerge confidently but it was soon the hosts in charge. David Healy, occasionally a little off the pace, picked up a needless yellow card that rules him out of Tuesday's match against Slovenia.

Worse followed in the 65th minute when Pantelic swept home from eight yards after a flowing move. Liverpool's Milan Jovanovic then almost put the hosts ahead after finding space in the box, but he hesitated and the chance was lost.

Northern Ireland were now looking in trouble every time Serbia attacked. It was no real shock, then, when the second goal came, Stankovic charging towards the danger area before laying the ball to Tosic who rifled his shot in at the near post. Serbia eased off but Northern Ireland could not take advantage as their substitutes struggled to make an impact.

Serbia (4-4-2): Brkic; Ivanovic, Subotic, Bisevac, Kolarov; Tosic, Ljajic (Jovanovic, 46), Krasic (Petrovic, 86), Stankovic; Milijas (Ninkovic, 46), Pantelic.

Northern Ireland (4-5-1): Camp; Baird, Hughes, J Evans (McCourt, 86), McAuley; Cathcart, C Evans, Clingan, Gorman (Feeney, 78), Brunt; Lafferty (Healy, 46).

Referee: S Gumienny (Belgium).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor