Worthington's battling side go close to famous victory over Italy

Northern Ireland 0 Italy 0
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The Independent Online

Former world champions Italy are the latest team to realise you cannot take Northern Ireland lightly.

Following a 1-0 victory against Slovenia last month, Nigel Worthington's side picked up a point at Windsor Park in this Euro 2012 qualifier.

Worthington could not hide his delight at the final whistle in front of a capacity crowd in Belfast. It could have been even better had David Healy not squandered a great chance in the first half. However there was much to be cheerful about – not least the performances from goalkeeper Maik Taylor and defenders Aaron Hughes and Stephen Craigan. They built a solid wall and Italy were left frustrated following victories against Estonia and the Faroe Islands

With a feverish crowd behind them Northern Ireland won a corner in the eighth minute. Grant McCann swung the ball in and goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano punched it clear under pressure. It broke to Chris Brunt, who mis-kicked but the game came to a halt following a foul on the goalkeeper.

Italy launched a swift counter-attack in the 13th minute and Domenico Criscito broke clear only to drag his shot across the face of the area and wide of the post. Northern Ireland squandered a great chance of taking the lead in the 31st minute following a deep cross from the right by Brunt to the far post. Healy was the first to react but sent his header the wrong side of the post when it seemed he must score.

Italy suddenly broke down the middle. Borriello was left with a one-on-one with Taylor only for the goalkeeper to stand tall and block his close-range drive. The rebound fell at the feet of Antonio Cassano but he curled a shot wide of the post.

Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor; McAuley, Hughes, Craigan, J Evans; Brunt (McGinn, 71), Baird, Davis, McCann (C Evans, 80); Feeney, Healy (Lafferty, 66). Substitutes not used: Tuffey (gk), Clinghan, Patterson, Gorman.

Italy (4-4-2): Viviano; Criscito, Bonucci, Chiellini, Cassani; De Rossi, Pirlo, Mauri (Marchisio, 79), Pepe (Rossi, 84); Cassano, Borriello (Pazzini, 74). Substitutes not used: Sirigu (gk), , Bovo, Palombo, Zambrotta.

Referee: T Chapron (France)

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