Northern Ireland 0 v Slovakia 2 - 09/09/2009
Northern Ireland's hopes of making the World Cup finals are almost certainly over as defeat by leaders Slovakia left them third in their qualifying group. Stanislav Sestak tapped in the opener from a Vladimir Weiss cross before David Healy fired a free-kick wide.
The home side pressed after the break but Filip Holosko made it 2-0 on 67 minutes with a powerful strike. Niall McGinn hit the crossbar while Slovakia's Erik Jendrisek was also denied by the woodwork in injury time.
The defeat leaves Northern Ireland needing to beat the Czech Republic in Prague next month and hope that Slovenia fail to beat San Marino four days later.
However, it's highly unlikely that the Slovenians will slip up against the minnows and Northern Ireland now look set to miss out on a play-off spot.The home fans created a typically raucous atmosphere as the game started at a frantic pace.
Healy shot straight at keeper Jan Mucha while Stephen Craigan's timely challenge denied Sestak going clear on goal. Manchester City teenager Weiss was the architect of Slovakia's goal, dribbling past Jonny Evans and his cross gave the unmarked Sestak the simple task of slotting in from two yards.
Sestak and strike partner Robert Vittek were causing the Northern Ireland defence problems while Weiss was a constant danger on the right.Healy shot just wide from a free-kick after 27 minutes but Northern Ireland were struggling to make an impact in attack.
The hosts applied sustained pressure for the first time after the break but failed to make it count. Damien Johnson headed over before Martin Skrtel's slip let in Paterson but Mucha rushed out to block the forward's strike.
Paterson wasted a good opening on 66 minutes, sending his 12-yard volley straight at Mucha. Slovakia made it 2-0 just seconds later when Holosko, in the action for the first time since coming on as a substitute, pounced on an Aaron Hughes mistake before smashing the ball past Taylor.
McGinn also made a quick impact as a substitute with the Celtic winger hitting the crossbar with a speculative effort from wide on the left.The visitors threatened on the break late on and Jendrisek fired against a post in added time.
Nigel Worthington's team has slipped to third in Group Three with Slovenia moving up to second on goal difference after beating Poland 3-0. Northern Ireland have also played a game more than their rivals and a top-two place is now unlikely.
|WC Group 3||P||Pts.|
|Slovakia (A)||2 - 1||L|
|Czech Rep. (H)||0 - 0||D|
|Slovenia (A)||2 - 0||L|
|San Marino (H)||4 - 0||W|
|San Marino (A)||0 - 3||W|
|Poland (H)||3 - 2||W|
|Slovenia (H)||1 - 0||W|
|Poland (A)||1 - 1||D|
|Slovakia (H)||0 - 2||L|
|Czech Rep. (A)||0 - 0||D|