affected by harm The misery of the Euro 2024 qualifier for Northern Ireland continued when they were defeated by Kazakhstan 1-0 on the road, extending their current losing record to five matches.
In a dull and close game played in Astana, the deciding factor was a magnificent goal scored by Maxim Samorodov in the first half.
Conor McMenamin had a wonderful opportunity to equalize for the away team just before halftime, but he blew it, then Conor Washington had a shot in the second half that was stopped.
After their first six matches in Group H, Northern Ireland only had three points to show for their efforts.
They entered this week’s double-header with a little chance of making it to the finals in Germany next summer, and they currently trail the group leaders by nine points with four matches still to play.
A chronic injury list has robbed manager Michael O’Neill of important players and has been a big reason in their losing every match since beating a team of nobodies in their opener. This comes after O’Neill was brought back for a second stint in command ahead of what many assumed would be a favorable Euro qualification group.
Because of injuries, O’Neill was without 12 players for the encounter on Sunday, and he has had as many as 17 players out of the lineup at various points throughout the qualifying campaign.
Northern Ireland had a much more disciplined and compact approach against Kazakhstan and looked comfortable for the whole of a game in which there were few chances. This came after they had delivered an attacking, albeit at times chaotic, display in Thursday night’s 4-2 loss in Slovenia, when defensive errors cost them dearly. In that game, they were defeated.
In point of fact, Samorodov’s goal in the 27th minute was the only shot on target in the first half of the game. It was an excellent demonstration of exceptional technique and finishing.
The number 10 received a pass inside on the half-turn from 25 yards out, and with a good first touch, he was able to get the better of Daniel Ballard. He then shifted the ball and fired an arrowed, low shot that flashed across Bailey Peacock-Farrell and settled in the bottom corner of the goal.
O’Neill acknowledges that the “process is painful,” but he emphasizes the importance of the “bigger picture.”
The’structural inadequacies’ of the IFA have been a hindrance to NI. – Weighty
The McMenamin mistake ends up being expensive for NI
The best opportunity for McMenamin and Northern Ireland came a few minutes before halftime when Washington made a wonderful break down the left side of the field and delivered a nice pass inside to Matty Kennedy. Kennedy then flicked the ball across the face of the goal, but McMenamin was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
McMenamin, a former winger for Glentoran, appeared to be ready to fire it home from close range; but, as he slid in to finish, striker Samorodov had tracked back and made an amazing clearance.
As he did when he came off the bench against Slovenia, Paul Smyth was sent on as a half-time substitute for Northern Ireland and injected life into their attack. The visitors opened the second half aggressively, and Washington came near to equalizing the score in the 49th minute.
Teenager Shea Charles, who once again added to his growing reputation with a mature performance in center midfield, attempted a long-range shot that bounced into the path of striker Washington. The striker caught a half volley on the turn well, but it was stopped by a fine reflex save by the home goalkeeper Igor Shatskiy. Shea Charles continued to further his growing reputation with his performance.
Charles had another long-range attempt that was stopped before closing the distance nicely to unleash Washington down the left, but he decided to fire when Ali McCann was free inside, and Shatskiy made another easy save on the attempt.
Kazakhstan hung on for their fourth win in six group matches as they played Denmark later on Sunday evening. This brings Kazakhstan’s total points to 12, which is level with Finland, who are currently in first place and will play Denmark later on Sunday evening.