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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 20:51 GMT
Spain 1-0 Northern Ireland
By Lyle Jackson

Northern Ireland's Ivan Sproule in action against Daniel Guiza of Spain
Northern Ireland's Ivan Sproule grabs the shirt of Daniel Guiza
Northern Ireland's hopes of reaching the Euro 2008 finals disappeared when they fell to Spain in Las Palmas.

Nigel Worthington's side needed to win to have any chance of qualifying but they were beaten by a deflected shot seven minutes into the second half.

Xavi's strike from long range came off the head of defender Stephen Craigan giving keeper Maik Taylor no chance.

As things turned out, Northern Ireland could not have gone through anyway as Sweden beat Latvia 2-1.

Despite the disappointment, Northern Ireland will look back on their 12-match series with a sense of achievement.

Considering they failed to even score a goal in their last European qualifying, the current side has progressed well under Nigel Worthington and, before him, Lawrie Sanchez.

However, they rarely looked like pulling off a shock win away to Spain who bossed most of the match.


Xavi cracked an shot wide of Maik Taylor's post after two minutes and Spain had valid claims for a penalty waved away after Craigan looked to have brought David Silva down.

Northern Ireland striker Healy made space for himself only to see his effort from just outside the area go over the bar.

There was little respite, however, and Sergio Ramos found the side netting in the 21st minute following a neat through ball from Cesc Fabregas.

Taylor then did well in the 40th minute to claw away a cross from Andres Iniesta after it took a sudden deflection.

Spain went ahead with Northern Ireland cursing their luck.

Taylor seemed to have Xavi's 25-yard effort covered but he was left wrong-footed after it took a deflection off Craigan.

Spain should have extended their lead two minutes later but Silva shot wastefully wide from a great position.

As Northern Ireland poured forward in search of an equaliser, gaps were opening in their defence.

Taylor had to be sharp off his line to thwart the onrushing Joaquin five minutes from full-time as the Spaniards looked to kill off the game.

Spain: Reina, Sergio Ramos, Albiol, Pablo, Pernia, Iniesta, Xavi (Villa 67), Fabregas (Joaquin 47), Senna, Silva, Guiza (Tamudo 57).
Subs not used: Casillas, Puyol, Albelda, Riera.

Goal: Xavi 52.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, McAuley, Craigan, Hughes, Baird, Sproule (Robinson 61), Clingan, Davis, Brunt (Lafferty 59), Healy, Feeney (Paterson 72).
Subs not used: Mannus, Webb, Capaldi, Hamilton.

Booked: Healy, Lafferty.

Referee: Herbert Fandel (Germany)

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