Worthington's woes increased by injury crisis
Sunday 27 March 2011
The Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington will spend the next two days pondering the cost of Friday night's Euro 2012 qualifying defeat to Serbia. Gareth McAuley's first-half header put Northern Ireland on course in Belgrade, but second-half goals from Marko Pantelic and Zoran Tosic left them empty handed.
Now Worthington is left to assess the damage the match has done, both to their Group C prospects and, just as worryingly, to the fitness of the squad to face Slovenia at Windsor Park on Tuesday.
The striker Kyle Lafferty was withdrawn at half-time against Serbia and his replacement, David Healy, is banned from the Slovenia match after picking up a booking. That leaves only Warren Feeney and the unproven Liam Boyce as forward options, while Worthington confirmed there were other fitness concerns to be addressed.
"We've got a few injuries we'll need to nurse over the next few days," said Worthington, who saw defenders Aaron Hughes and Jonny Evans require treatment during the game. "Kyle has got a problem with his knee, it was tightening up all the way through the first half. He had to come off and David went on, and he got booked.
"I don't want to give too much away at the moment but we'll nurse the players over the next 48 hours and see who is available."
Asked if replacements would be considered, Worthington added: "If someone can help me look then that would be most helpful, much appreciated. We've got what we've got. If there is someone available to come in we'll probably look at that but, certainly with Kyle, we'll give him every chance."
Worthington had targeted at least a point to keep his qualification plans on track at the Crvena Zvezda Stadium, which was bereft of home fans after crowd trouble caused Serbia's qualifier in Italy to be forfeited. Despite taking nothing from the match, he hailed his side for putting in just the kind of gutsy display he had called for.
"I thought it was a tremendous performance," he said. "In the first half the football they played was exceptional. They did the job very well and they got the all-important goal. But you know that at half-time Serbia are going to try and change something. They have very good players and you have to give credit to them. They went to a 4-2-4 and pushed players forward. Serbia are a very good team and they threw everyone forward in the second half. But I thought my players were fantastic. I thought the performance was excellent."
After riding to Spain's rescue game after game at last year's World Cup, David Villa did it again on Friday night with a double that secured a 2-1 comeback win over Czech Republic in their Euro 2012 qualifier. The 29-year-old striker's 45th and 46th goals for his country on his 72nd appearance made him the nation's leading scorer in his own right, two clear of Raul, who won his 102nd and last cap for Spain in 2006.
Villa, whose five goals in South Africa last year helped them to their first World Cup triumph, netted from the edge of the area to put the home side level in the 73rd minute in Granada. He grabbed the winner from the penalty spot four minutes later as Spain maintained their perfect record in Group I with four wins.
Robin van Persie scored one goal and set up another to help Holland rout Hungary 4-0.
The Dutch came to Budapest without several key players but even their back-ups had no trouble with Hungary. Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart gave the World Cup runners-up the lead in the eighth minute, and Ibrahim Afellay made it 2-0 before Van Persie set up Dirk Kuyt, who beat Hungary's offside trap to score past Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly. Van Persie completed the rout.
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