Match Analysis: Northern Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan

Michael O'Neill
© PA Photos
Sports Mole dissects the action as Northern Ireland draw 1-1 with Azerbaijan in their World Cup qualification meeting at Windsor Park.

Northern Ireland dominated proceedings but failed to register the three points in a 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan in their World Cup 2014 qualification Group F clash on Wednesday.

The away side took the lead after five minutes when Rauf Aliyev struck from distance and despite constant Northern Ireland pressure, they led at the interval.

The home side continued to pass up chance after chance in a remarkable second period, but they rescued a point late on with a David Healy free kick.

Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action between the two group rivals.

Match statistics:

Northern Ireland:
Shots 18
On target 6
Possession 65%
Corners 6
Fouls 13

Azerbaijan:
Shots 8
On target 5
Possession 35%
Corners 1
Fouls 12

Was the result fair?

The short answer is no. Just how Northern Ireland failed to win this match will remain a mystery. Michael O'Neill's side found themselves 1-0 down to an early strike, but they passed up chance after chance throughout the 90 minutes before scoring late on through Healy. A statistic of 18 attempts and just one goal tells you everything you need to know about their finishing.

Northern Ireland's performance

6/10. On the face of it, this was one of Northern Ireland's most impressive performances to date. They were bright and inventive in midfield and always carried a threat in attacking areas, but their finishing was just woeful. They had Premier League players on display this evening and the quality just had to be better. They only have themselves to blame.

Azerbaijan's performance

6/10. It was as expected from Azerbaijan this evening. They knew their limitations and their game plan was put into action after scoring the opening goal. On another night they would have been hit for six, but they did defend well for large periods and demonstrated a tidy ability on the ball.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Salahat Agayev: Northern Ireland had targeted the inexperienced goalkeeper as a weak spot this evening, but he responded well under pressure to put in a fine all-round performance between the sticks.

Biggest gaffe of the match

It's hard to pick one moment of the match, but Northern Ireland's finishing must be called into question. Craig Cathcart and Kyle Lafferty were both guilty of missing golden chances in the opening half of football. Meanwhile, Chris Baird had a host of gilt-edged chances in the second half.

Referee performance

Victor Shvetsov had a difficult 90 minutes of action this evening. The Ukrainian went unnoticed for large periods, but he failed to control the players late in the second period.

What next?

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland will continue their World Cup qualification campaign against Russia on March 25 next year.

Azerbaijan: Berti Vogts's side return to World Cup qualification action away to Luxembourg on March 21 next year.

Azerbaijan
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