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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
Northern Ireland hold Spain

Northern Ireland 0-0 Spain

Northern Ireland defender Peter Kennedy stretches to tackle Etxberria of Spain at Windsor Park
Etxberria of Spain is challenged by NI's Peter Kennedy

Northern Ireland produced their best performance for many matches as they held Spain to a draw at Windsor Park in Belfast.

Sammy McIlroy's men may not have managed to end their now infamous scoring famine, which now stretches to 10 games.

But they have been boosted by an impressive display against one of the top sides in the world.

Spain, knocked off the top of Group Six by Greece's win over Ukraine earlier in the evening, dominated the possession.

But Northern Ireland produced some encouraging spells and went close to ending tha depressing goal drought.

Bristol City midfielder Tommy Doherty, making his home debut, saw a clever 22-yard curler palmed away for a corner by keeper Iker Casillas after eight minutes.

These boys were magnificent
Sammy McIlroy
Soon afterwards Sunderland's George McCartney got in a close-range header but it was straight at the Real Madrid keeper.

However the Spaniards stepped up the pace later in the half and Maik Taylor was forced to make good saves in quick succession from Raul and the impressive Josebo Etxeberria.

Spain looked dangerous almost every time they attacked but could not make the breakthrough.

Again, in the second half, Northern Ireland had their moments and almost ended their goal drought in the 64th minute with a swift counterattack.

Agony

David Healy was free in a great position but saw his shot turned away by Casillas and the rebound broke to Andy Smith who was following up.

However it was agony for the home fans as the Glentoran striker's shot was deflected to safety.

Spain piled on late pressure and almost snatched a winner but Taylor produced a precious goal-line save from Raul after a corner from the left.

At the final whistle, Northern Ireland were applauded off the pitch by their appreciative supporters.

It was a proud night for Aaron Hughes, who had captained Northern Ireland for the first time in a 0-5 defeat at home to Spain in April 2002.

This time the skipper wore his Newcastle number, 18, hoping it would bring him better luck in international football, and the home side certainly had fortune smile on them as they clung on for a good point.

The result leaves Spain in second place in Group Six, one point behind Greece.

Northern Ireland are bottom, having picked up just their second point of the campaign.


Northern Ireland: Taylor, Baird, McCartney, Aaron Hughes, Kennedy, Griffin, Johnson, Doherty, Jones, Healy, Andrew Smith.
Subs: Carroll, Williams, Toner, McVeigh, McCann, Hamilton, Elliott.

Spain: Casillas, Puyol, Marchena, Helguera, Juanfran, Etxeberria, Baraja, Sergio, Vicente, Valeron, Raul.
Subs: Salgado, Canizares, De Pedro, Morientes, Bravo, Joaquin, Gabri.

Referee: Claus Bo-Larsen (Denmark)




SEE ALSO
NI beaten by Italy
03 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland


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