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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Irish no match for Spain
Northern Ireland's wall does the trick against Spain's Barajas
Northern Ireland defence go airborne to stop Barajas
Spain 3-0 Northern Ireland

Spain cantered to victory in their opening Euro 2004 campaign against a hard-working Northern Ireland side in Albacete.

There was no repeat of the history-making result back in 1982 when the Irish brought off a World Cup shock in Valencia.

Instead it was Spain who controlled the game virtually from the start to the very end.

But all credit to Northern Ireland who battled bravely to stem the waves of Spanish attacks.

Damian Johnston fights off the advances of Bravo
Damian Johnston fights off the advances of Bravo

In the end they were simply outclassed by Spain - who continued their marvellous 11-year unbeaten record at home which has now stretched to 43 games.

It was two goals in either half by Baraja and another by Guti that was enough to see off Northern Ireland's challenge.

They broke through in the 19th minute as Northern Ireland temporarily lost their concentration.

Xavi out wide floated in a long diagonal cross from the left, and Ruben Baraja rose behind the off-balance Colin Murdoch to deflect a header past the despairing Taylor.

Twice Raul showed some of his deft touches in the box, but Taylor, and then Murdoch, cleared the danger.

Six minutes from the break Vicente drove a beautiful swerving cross into the path of Raul just outside the six-yard area, but Taylor scrambled the ball away and captain Steve Lomas finally booted clear.

A coat of paint saved Northern Ireland leaking a second goal right on half-time when a Vicente shot came off Horlock's right foot and cannoned clear off the right-hand post.

Great save

In the second-half, Spain continued where they off as they threaded the ball about the park looking for a way through the defence.

In the 58th minute Northern Ireland's defence cracked again after Taylor had put Aaron Hughes under pressure from a throw-out.

Spain collected the ball, again attacked down the left, and Vicente floated over a pass and Real Madrid's Guti dived to head home his first goal for his country.

Michael Hughes, a second-half replacement for McVeigh gave Spanish hearts a bit of a flutter when he fired just wide of the post in the 70th minute.

But Spain hammered home their superiority when Baraja fired home again a minute from the end after Morientes had danced through the defence.


Spain: Casillas, Salgado, Bravo, Helguera, Puyol, Baraja, Raul, capt, Joaquin, Guiti, Xavi, Vicente. Subs: Capdevila, Contreras, Albelda, Morientes, Mendieta, Capi, Garcia Calvo.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, A Hughes, McCartney, Taggart, Murdock, Lomas (capt), Gillespie, Mulryne, Johnson, McVeigh, Horlock. Subs: Carroll, M Hughes, Healy, Kirk, McCann, Holmes, Toner.

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"A spirited effort from Northern Ireland"
NI manager Sammy McIlroy
"We gave goals away"
Keeper Maik Taylor
''We're very disappointed with the result''

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