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Live Commentary: Cyprus 0-0 Northern Ireland - as it happened

Relive with Sports Mole all the action from the international friendly clash between Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
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Cyprus and Northern Ireland met in their international friendly clash in Nicosia on Wednesday.

Both sides were coming into the game in poor form and were looking for a spark after dismal World Cup qualifying campaigns.

However, neither team were able to find a breakthrough despite Cyprus having the best of the opportunities, while Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley was sent off late in the game to cap a poor evening for Michael O'Neill's men.

Read below to see how all the action unfolded.


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Good evening and welcome to the live commentary of the international friendly game between Cyprus and Northern Ireland.

Michael O'Neill's side are without a win in their last five matches. A run that stretches back to August when they defeated Russia in their World Cup qualifier. O'Neill will be looking to end that run in Nicosia this evening.

Cyprus are in a similar run of poor form and haven't won in their last 10 matches. That run stretches all the way back to 2012 when they beat Iceland, and has included eight defeats. Pambos Christodoulou will be hoping to end that run sooner rather than later in his first game in charge.

Northern Ireland have failed to score in their last nine friendly matches and O'Neill has urged his side that they need to score goal on a regular basis to qualify for major tournaments, he told BBC Sport: "The only people who can change that are these players, but we have to accept where we are. We're not a nation who are going to score a huge number of goals and we never have been. But if you look at the statistics [from World Cup qualification] one of the most interesting for me was that Greece won eight games and only scored 12 goals. We have to look at how countries like that progress and qualify for tournaments."

The teams have been announce and we'll start with the home side.

CYPRUS STARTING XI: Georgallides, Antoniades, Merkis, Dossa Junior, Aloneftis, Nikolaou, Makridis, Laban, Christofi, Kyriacou, Mitidis.

CYPRUS SUBS: Makris, Papathanasiou, Kyriakou, Mastrou, Efrem, Loizou, Charalambous, Artymatas, Charalambidis, Alexandrou, Sielis.

NORTHERN IRELAND STARTING XI: Mannus, McAuley, Bruce, Cathcart, McGiven, Davis, Brunt, McGinn, Norwood, Paterson, Ward.

NORTHERN IRELAND SUBS: McKay, Reeves, Lafferty, Shiels, Lafferty, McGovern, McCourt, Paton, Carroll, McArdle, Ferguson.

The players are making their way out onto the pitch and we should be underway shortly.

We're underway in this friendly game.

Early attack from the home side and Kyriacou tries to slip in Mitidis on the edge of the box, but Cathcart is there to make a good challenge to clear the danger. Good last-ditch defending from the centre back there.

Ireland have settled into a rhythm and are passing the ball well through the midfield. There's no penetration at the moment as McGinn tried to raid down the right flank but he was tackled by Merkis.

Even game so far as Cyprus have battled back to earn a spell of possession of their own. Brunt does well to make a challenge to break this pattern and he tries to find Ward in space down the left, but he overhits his pass and the ball goes out for a throw-in.

CHANCE! Ward breaks down the left and lifts a cross into the box. His cross is cleared by Merkis but only as far as Brunt on the edge of the area, who strikes the ball first time with his right foot. However, the defender atones for his poor clearance by making a crucial block to stop his goalbound shot.

CHANCE! McGinn raids down the right for O'Neill's side and he beats his man. He manages to find space for a cross and his pinpoint effort finds Paterson in the box, who heads at goal from close range, but Georgallides is there to make a great save for the home side.

OFF THE LINE! Makridis comes close to giving his side the lead as he is played through down the left. He takes a first time shot from a tight angle, which beats Mannus but McGiven is there to clear the ball away just in the knick of time.

Cyprus are starting to creep slowly into the game and are controlling possession at the moment. Laban is pulling the strings from his deep role in the midfield, and Ireland are chasing shadows trying to win the ball off the home side.

The home side are playing with ease at the moment, but are yet to penetrate the Irish backline who are holding firm. Everytime Cyprus try to play the ball to Christofi down the middle Cathcart and Bruce are there to win the ball.

Better build up play from the hosts this time and Antoniades does lift a cross to the back post but the header from Nikolaou goes just over the bar and Northern Ireland have a goal kick. Promising signs for Cyprus.

The tempo of this game has slowed drastically in the last few minutes, which is suiting O'Neill's side as they try to keep their shape when the home side have the ball. Ireland have struggled for a kick in the last few minutes in Nicosia.

Cyprus win a corner down the right, which Aloneftis delivers into the box and is cleared at the first attempt by Cathcart. Charalambous tries to knock the ball back into the box, but he gets his delivery all wrong and he hooks the ball straight up and Mannus claims with ease.

Ireland hit on the counter and McGinn finds space for a cross down the right. His ball travels into the area and finds Ward, who tries to find space for a shot, but Merkis is there to make the block. Makridis then makes a good follow-up challenge to stop Davis in his tracks as he tried to rally his side for another attack.

CHANCE! Cyprus have an excellent chance to take the lead as Kyriakou raids down the right and slides a ball across the face of goal to Mitidis. The striker shoots under pressure from Bruce, and the defender does just enough to get a foot on the ball to divert the effort behind for a corner.

SAVE! The home side are in again as Laban lifts a ball over the top of the Ireland defence for the run of Christofi. The ball doesn't quite sit down for the forward, but he does well to loop an effort at goal, but Mannus does brilliantly to get up to tip the ball over the bar.

Ireland try to press forward and Paterson out of sheer frustration attempts a long-range effort from about 30 yards out. His effort is on target, but Georgallidis claims the ball with ease as it lacked the pace to trouble the keeper.

SAVE! Mannus keeps Northern Ireland level again as he makes a great one-handed stop to prevent Kyriakou's deflected cross from finding the back of the net, as the full back found himself in all sorts of space down the right. Cyprus are all over O'Neill's side at the moment.

CHANCE! Another raid down the flank from the home side, this time down the left from Aloneftis. The winger lifts a cross into the middle and Christofi tries to get an effort at goal, but he can't get good contact on the ball and it goes wide of the target.

HALF-TIME: Cyprus 0-0 Northern Ireland

Half time in Nicosia and Northern Ireland are fortunate to be level. Michael O'Neill's side started brightly as Martin Paterson saw an effort well saved, but since then the home side have been all over them. Christofi, Kyriakou and Mitidis have all had excellent chances to give their side the lead, but due to the form of Alan Mannus and some poor finishing, it's still goalless at the break.

O'Neill will want to see a lot more from his side after the break, while his opposite number Christodoulou will want his side to have better composure in front of the net. It's all to play for still after the break.

The players are making their way back out onto the field for the second half. So we should be underway shortly.

We're back underway in this friendly clash.

SUBSTITUTION: Two changes for Northern Ireland at the break as Lafferty replaces Paterson, and Carroll replaces Mannus.

YELLOW CARD! Laban goes into the book for a late challenge on McGinn.

SUBSTITUTION: Aloneftis falls to deck with no-one around and he calls for the stretcher. It doesn't look good for the winger as he gets straight on the stretcher and is replace by Efrem.

The stoppages at the start of the half have not helped this game. Both sides are trying to inject some pace into the game, but are failing at the minute. A lot of misplaced passes at the moment.

CHANCE! Ireland produce the best move of the match as McGinn slides a through ball in the inside right channel for Ward. The forward tries to slide a ball to the back post, with a cross-shot, but no player in white is there to turn the ball in, and it goes inches wide of the post.

Brunt gets the ball in midfield and from about 35 yards from goal decides to shoot with an ambitious effort. Georgallidis sees the ball all the way and makes a comfortable stop, a bit wasteful from the West Bromwich Albion man.

Ireland work the ball well down the left, as Ward and McGinn link up but the winger misses the chance to slide the Derby County man down the flank and instead goes inside to Cathcart. The defender tries to whip a ball into the box and he gets it all wrong, as it sails high and wide and nowhere near any player in a white shirt.

CHANCE! Mitidis is played down the right and he raids all the way to the byeline. He the checks the ball back to Christofi on the edge of the box, but the forward's effort flies well over the bar, a terrible miss. That was a glorious chance for the home side.

The home side are dominating possession at the moment, but again are lacking that cutting edge going forward. They just can't put it all together in the final third of the pitch, which is why this game continues to be goalless.

O'Neill's side win the ball in midfield and it goes out wide quickly to Brunt. The Baggies midfielder whips a ball into the box first time which evades the boot of Dossa, but there is no Irish player there to attack the presented opportunity.

RED CARD! McAuley is sent off for Northern Ireland as he brings down Christofi as he tried to bare down on goal. The defender was the last man and deserved to go, as he hacked down the forward.

Cyprus can't make the advantage count from the resulting free kick just outside the box as several players are flagged for offside. But can they take advantage of playing against 10 men for the last 15 minutes.

Ireland press forward despite their lack of numbers and Brunt fires the ball to Lafferty, who tries to get a head to the ball but Dossa does well to compete and get enough on it to divert it away from goal.

CHANCE! Cyprus work the ball well down the right as Christofi finds Kyriakou in space. The full back lifts a dangerous cross into the middle, where Efrem tries to turn the ball home from close range, but Cathcart does just enough to put him off to stop the midfielder making contact.

The tempo from the home side hasn't quite been good enough in the past few minutes to move the Irish defenders out of position. O'Neill's side are encamped in their own half and seem determined to hold out for the draw.

Ireland have a chance to threaten as Lafferty is brought down just inside the Cyprus half. The visitors pack men into the box, this could be their big chance.

Bruce lifts the ball into the penalty area and the home side clear the ball with ease as several defenders queued up to get the underhit cross away. It looks to be heading for draw this game.

CHANCE! Cyprus have the chance to win the game as Efrem slides a through ball into the box and Makris races to get onto it. The striker takes the ball in stride and tries to lift it over Carroll, but the keeper spreads himself and makes the stop.

There will be four minutes of added time.

CHANCE! Lafferty does well for the visitors down the right and he powers a ball across the face of goal. Ferguson tries to get on the end of it but Merkis beats him to the ball and diverts the ball behind, but was very close to an own goal.

From the resulting corner Georgallidis claims the ball from Ferguson's cross and that should be it.

FULL-TIME: Cyprus 0-0 Northern Ireland

It's finished goalless in Nicosia as both teams lacked the quality to find a breakthrough. The home side had the better of the chances, but couldn't find a way past Mannus and then Carroll in the second half, while Gareth McAuley was sent off for Michael O'Neill's side. The result was what neither manager was looking for this evening and will have to look for further answers in their next games.

Thanks for joining our commentary this evening. Until next time, goodbye.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill on the touchline during the World Cup qualifier against Portugal on September 6, 2013
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