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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 18:36 GMT
Northern Ireland hold Ukraine
Recalled NI striker David Healy just foiled in front of goal
David Healy is dispossessed by goalkeeper Reva
Northern Ireland 0-0 Ukraine

Northern Ireland's goal famine continued as they fought out a scoreless draw against Ukraine at Windsor Park.

It has been five games since Northern Ireland scored and have only registered two victories in their last 15 games in Belfast.

However, they deserved more than a point from a game in which they dominated for long periods.

Sammy McIlroy's side were in a positive frame of mind in the opening 20 minutes as Ukraine stood off and funnelled into a defensive cordon.

NI manager Sammy McIlroy returned to the dug-out after his one-match ban against Spain
NI boss Sammy McIlroy feels the strain

Keith Gillespie was in inspired form as he patrolled the right-hand touchline and on three occasions won successive corners.

Damien Johnson began where he left off in Albacete as he took the game to the Ukranians.

David Healy, recalled to the starting line-up after being dropped from the Spanish game last week, buzzed around the 18-yard area with great effect.

Healy, in fact, had the first real chance of the game when goalkeeper Vitlii Reva flapped at a corner, but recovered to dive on the ball just as the Preston striker pulled back the trigger.

Then in the 14th minute, it was Philip Mulryne who thundered in a right-footed drive which Reva did well to block at his left-hand post.

Ukraine finally began to shrug off their early lethargy when the dangerous Maxym Kalynychenko fired just wide from a low cross from Mykhaylo Starostyak.

Two minutes later, Andriy Vorobey ran on to a lucky rebound in the 18-yard area, but with the opening goal looking certain, Aaron Hughes brought off a superb tackle.

Husin was very fortunate to remain on the park after a dangerous two-footed takcle on Michael Hughes.

His only punishment was a yellow card which was matched by an aggrieved Hughes minutes later.

Philip Mulryne had a first-half chance saved
Mulryne battles with Maxym Kalymychenko
Hughes was in the game again a minute from half-time when his floated free-kick found the head of Sunderland defender George McCartney only for the ball to drift just wide.

Hughes was again in the thick of the action on the resumption.

The Wimbledon midfielder sprinted on to a loose ball in the penalty area, but he tried to find Johnson out left instead of going for goal himself.

Twice Andriy Voronin had chances when put into space, but each time fired well wide of the posts.

Ukraine were starting to look dangerous on the break and unmarked substitute Sergiv Rebrov flashed a header wide when it looked easier to score in the 69th minute.

Despite some very tired legs, the Irish kept going to the end and still creating chances, but they still have not found the net for the last

Northern Ireland: Taylor, Lomas, McCartney, Aaron Hughes, Johnson, Horlock, Gillespie, Mulryne, Michael Hughes, McVeigh, Healy. Subs: Carroll, Murdock, McCann, Kirk, Holmes, Toner, Baird.

Ukraine: Reva, Luzhny, Starostyak, Tymoschuk, Kormiltsev, Husin, Voronin, Kalynychenko, Zubov, Vorobey, Radchenko. Subs: Shutkov, Melashchenko, Rebrov, Matiukhin, Venhlinsky, Konovalov, Lysytskyy.

Referee: Cosimo Bolognino (Milan).

BBC Sport's Dave Woods
"It was an encouraging Northern Ireland display"

N Ireland 0-0 Ukraine

Ukraine in focus

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