North keep hopes alive

Italy 0 Northern Ireland 0

With the top two teams going through to next spring’s elite phase, a first point means the North face Moldova tomorrow knowing victory for them and a defeat for the Italians against the Republic could see them sneak through.

They certainly deserved their point yesterday, playing an efficient, pressing game in midfield and restricting the Italians to a handful of chances.

Italy really only found their cutting edge with Arturo Lupoli’s introduction in the 71st minute. The Arsenal striker gave impetus to the Italian cause, Antonio Candreva shooting narrowly wide in the 77th minute, followed by a shot across the face of goal from substitute Robert Acquafresca.

Lupoli saw his shot blocked by defender Tony Kane five minutes later and the Arsenal man’s corner almost turned the game with a minute to go.

Acquafresca rose above a crowd of players only to see his thumping header cleared off the line by North substitute Matthew Doherty.

ITALY: A Consigli, N Belmonte, G Ungaro, G Freddi, M Rinaldi (capt), D Dessena, F Savi, M Momente, A Candreva, A Cerci, F Prevete.

NORTHERN IRELAND: J Tuffey (capt), T Kane, C Turner, R McArdle, B McMenamin, R Garrett, R Catney, D Fordyce, A Rosbotham, S McCordick, K Lafferty.

Referee: R Malek (Poland).

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