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Northern Ireland vs Ukraine a few quick thoughts

  • Northern Ireland opened their account in Euro 2016 with a win over Ukraine yesterday Afternoon
  • The game may have been halted at one point due to hailstones but the weather certainly wasn’t going to dampen the mood of the travelling army of Northern Ireland fans
  • It’s fair to say that they were overwhelmed on Sunday against Poland but they looked more like the side that were so impressive during qualification in yesterday’s encounter
  • The defeat to Poland didn’t change too much in the grand scheme of the group as this was always going to be a must win game
  • And Michael O’Neill’s passed the all important test with flying colours, actually just one colour in particular. That being Green
  • An absolute sea of fans at one end of Lyon’s ground did not stop singing from minute one to minute 90 and the 12th man would have gone some way to aided Northern Ireland to victory
  • Before the game O’Neill decided a change of personnel was required. Key man in qualification Kyle Lafferty was benched in favour of Conor Washington. Washington was one of five changes from Sunday’s defeat and on reflection O’Neill got his lineup for this game spot on
  • The first half was a little cagey but this time around Northern Ireland showed more attacking endevaour from the start and were taking the game to Ukraine at every opportunity they could
  • Northern Ireland once again went into the break at 0-0 but this time around you felt it was them in the ascendency and the more likely to go to get the first goal
  • Four minutes after the break they did exactly that when West Brom’s Gareth McAuley headed in Oliver Norwood’s inch perfect free-kick
  • A deluge of hailstones then poured down onto the pitch and the key task that Michael O’Neill had was to make sure his side didn’t lose their momentum
  • They stifled Ukraine’s pretty blunt attack and were doing enough to hold out for a first major tournament win in 34 years
  • And any nerves they may have had would have dissipated when Niall McGinn was on hand to prod home a rebound in injury time to double their advantage and give their hopes of qualification a massive boost
  • The group is still very much wide open especially with Germany and Poland playing out a scoreless draw
  • A win for Northern Ireland would guarantee qualification while any other result and they will be having to do the maths to see whether it’s enough to still get out of the group stages
  • As for Ukraine as a consequence of the draw between Poland and Germany now are already out of the tournament

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