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Nov 18, 2020 at 7.45pm UK at Windsor Park
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland
1-1
RomaniaRomania
Boyce (56')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Bicfalvi (81')

Result: Northern Ireland still awaiting first UEFA Nations League win

Result: Northern Ireland still awaiting first UEFA Nations League win
© Reuters
The 1-1 draw with Romania came after Ian Baraclough's men found out they were going down to Group C.

A first Nations League win continued to elude Northern Ireland as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Romania hours after relegation from League B had been confirmed by events off the pitch.

Eric Bicfalvi struck in the 81st minute to cancel out Liam Boyce's goal and make it 10 games without a victory for Northern Ireland in a competition they will be happy to see the back of for the next two years.

When it does return in 2022, Northern Ireland will find themselves in League C, facing the likes of Azerbaijan, Kosovo, and Georgia, after UEFA announced in the hours before kick-off that Romania had been awarded three points for their cancelled match against Norway on Sunday.

Northern Ireland v Romania – UEFA Nations League – Group B1 – Windsor Park
Liam Boyce, right, scored the opening goal for Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

That left Northern Ireland six points behind their opponents, the latest blow in a miserable international window which began with the end of their Euro 2020 hopes in defeat to Slovakia on Thursday.

Before kick-off Ian Baraclough tried to keep alive a glimmer of hope as he spoke of a possible appeal by Norway, who were deemed to have forfeited Sunday's game after a coronavirus case prevented them from travelling, but Bicfalvi's strike ensured any such appeal will be of no use to Northern Ireland now.

Relegation and the lower seeding that comes with it will complicate the picture for future qualifying campaigns, but the path followed by Scotland over the past two years offers a blueprint and after a miserable spell in League B it may do them some good if they can use it to build momentum.

Northern Ireland learned of UEFA's decision just as they were about to begin their final team meeting before heading to the stadium, though the verdict had been expected and made no change to their approach.

Northern Ireland v Romania – UEFA Nations League – Group B1 – Windsor Park
Ian Baraclough made five changes but could not find an elusive Nations League win (Niall Carson/PA)

Baraclough made five changes, restoring Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Josh Magennis and Bailey Peacock-Farrell while handing a debut to Matty Kennedy in the absence of Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, George Saville, Jordan Thompson and Kyle Lafferty.

It was another bright start from Northern Ireland, with Paddy McNair's free-kick almost finding Dan Ballard at the far post less than 90 seconds in, but Romania gradually began to take control of possession.

Northern Ireland's best opportunities were coming from set-pieces but they still struggled to test Ciprian Tatarusanu, with Liam Boyce meeting McNair's corner with a first-time effort.

Kennedy carved out a good chance just before the break with his cross from the left finding Boyce, but his header was deflected wide.

The breakthrough came in the 56th minute and it was from a set-piece, albeit a corner that was played short to Michael Smith. The Hearts man crossed to the far post where Boyce forced his way through to scramble the ball over the line.

Northern Ireland v Romania – UEFA Nations League – Group B1 – Windsor Park
Eric Bicfalvi, centre, scored Romania's equaliser to deny Northern Ireland victory (Niall Carson/PA)

They almost gave the lead away moments later when Peacock-Farrell failed to collect a free-kick, and the Burnley goalkeeper was grateful Iulian Cristea failed to make contact in front of an open goal.

But Northern Ireland tails were up and Ali McCann was a whisker away from a first international goal as he sent a shot narrowly wide from another Smith cross.

At the other end, Romania had a penalty shout for a potential handball against Cathcart turned down before Peacock-Farrell made a sharp stop to deny Razvan Marin.

Manchester United's Ethan Galbraith came on to make his debut but within two minutes of his arrival, Romania brought themselves level.

Florin Tanase got away from Ballard on the left and pulled the ball back for Bicfalvi to turn in at the near post and deflate Northern Ireland once again.

Attention will now turn to next year's World Cup qualifiers, with the page quickly turned on another Nations League campaign to forget.

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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough pictured on September 7, 2020
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Wednesday's key events


ROWING
· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

CYCLING
· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

DIVING
· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

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