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Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 18:29 UK

Slovakia 2-1 N Ireland

Steve Davis and Miroslav Karhan challenge for the ball
Steve Davis and Miroslav Karhan challenge for the ball

Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a disappointing start with a 2-1 defeat in Slovakia.

Martin Jakubko found the net but his header was ruled out for offside.

Martin Skrtel scored in the 46th minute with a glancing header and Robert Vittek headed down for Marek Hamsik to fire home a low shot after 70 minutes.

Jan Durica put the ball past his own goalkeeper on 81 minutes and late in the game Stefan Senecky produced a fine save from a Warren Feeney drive.

David Healy saw his shot blocked in the sixth minute, Sammy Clingan then had a left-foot shot easily saved and Chris Baird headed over from a Keith Gillespie corner.

Slovakia enjoyed a period of possession without troubling Northern Ireland goalkeeper Maik Taylor until Jakubko's header from a left-wing cross was disallowed.

Martin Petras then headed wide from eight yards when left unmarked in the 40th minute.

Healy fired wide of the post after collecting a Steve Davis pass two minutes before the break, the striker shooting from 20 yards out when he could have taken the ball on.

Marek Sapara provided a sweeping right-foot cross from the left for Liverpool defender Skrtel to head in a minute after half-time.

George McCartney had a chance to equalise but his free header from 12 yards from a Keith Gillespie corner went over the bar.


Feeney replaced Keith Gillespie and soon after Martin Paterson shot straight at Senecky, before being substituted in favour of Chris Brunt.

Northern Ireland were denied a penalty in the 69th minute when Chris Baird's shot appeared to strike the hand of a Slovakian defender but the referee waved play on.

Hamsik netted the second and then almost added a third for the home side.

Durica's own-goal gave Nigel Worthington's men hope but in the final minute Senecky pushed Feeney's header over the bar and then McCartney saw his headed effort from a corner easily dealt with by the goalkeeper.

Slovakia: Senecky, Durica, Skrtel, Pekarik, Martin Petras, Karhan, Kozak, Jakubko, Hamsik, Sapara, Vittek.
Subs: Mucha, Novak, Zabavnik, Svento, Mintal, Obzera, Sebo.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, Baird, Hughes, Craigan, McCartney, Evans, Davis, Gillespie, Clingan, Paterson, Healy.
Subs: Mannus, McAuley, Brunt, McGivern, Shiels, Thompson, Feeney.

Referee: Nikolai Ivanov (Russia)

Att: 5,445

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Northern Ireland's Martin Paterson 6.42 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Worthington rues NI indiscipline
06 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Assault on NI fans 'unprovoked'
06 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
Pick your N Ireland XI
06 Jun 07 |  Internationals

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