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Northern Ireland's Nations League future hangs in the balance

Northern Ireland's Nations League future hangs in the balance
© Reuters
UEFA's control, ethics and disciplinary body is due to discuss how to handle the cancellation of the fixture between Romania and Norway.

Northern Ireland's relegation in the Nations League could be confirmed on Monday after two late Austria goals condemned them to a cruel 2-1 defeat in Vienna on Sunday night.

Northern Ireland's fate lies in the hands of UEFA's control, ethics and disciplinary body, which is due to discuss how to handle the cancellation of the fixture between Romania and Norway, which had also been scheduled for Sunday evening.

Romania are expected to be handed a walkover victory after Norway's trip to Bucharest was cancelled at the last minute due to positive tests for coronavirus within the camp, though alternatives including the drawing of lots are possible.

Should Romania get the three points, Northern Ireland would be left six points adrift at the bottom of Group B1 before the two sides meet in their final group game at Windsor Park on Wednesday night.

"It's out of our hands and something UEFA need to decide," manager Ian Baraclough said.

Relegation under such circumstances would mark a new low in Northern Ireland's miserable relationship with the Nations League, a competition in which they have now lost eight of their nine games following Sunday's defeat, and a fresh setback after their Euro 2020 qualification hopes were dashed on Thursday.

But Baraclough's more immediate gripe with officialdom came in Vienna, where Northern Ireland conceded twice in the final 10 minutes to let slip a 1-0 lead and fall to a fourth straight defeat.

It was a strong performance in the wake of Thursday's crushing extra-time defeat to Slovakia in the Euro 2020 qualifying play-off final, and there were hopes of an unlikely win when Josh Magennis fired Northern Ireland in front with a quarter of an hour to play.

But six minutes later Louis Schaub levelled from what looked to be an offside position, and Northern Ireland's frustrations boiled over as assistant coach Austin MacPhee was sent off in the wake of Adrian Grbic's 87th minute winner.

"Their first goal, I'm frustrated," Baraclough said. "I just looked back and the guy is offside. He's offside in the first phase and then in the second phase he's offside again and the officials haven't picked it up.

"That changes the whole outcome of the game for me.

"(Austria) have gone 1-0 down and, credit to them, they stepped it up and put pressure on us, but I don't think it ends up at 2-1 if that first goal is disallowed. It's hard to take for me and my team."

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Lyndon Dykes celebrates scoring for Scotland against Slovakia in the Nations League on October 11, 2020
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Saturday's key events

· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

> Today's schedule in full
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