Late Evans goal completes Northern Ireland comeback in Cyprus draw | Nations League


Jonny Evans struck in injury time to rescue a draw for Northern Ireland at home to Cyprus but only after some fans had repeated their calls for the manager Ian Baraclough to go. Evans bundled the ball home in the 93rd minute as Northern Ireland came back from 2-0 down, having trailed to goals in either half from Andronikos Kakoullis before Paddy McNair offered hope in the 72nd minute.

There were chants against Baraclough on the hour mark, and though the late fightback raised home spirits, a draw was not the result Northern Ireland or their manager needed.

Before kick-off Northern Ireland fans came together to remember Billy Bingham, who led them to back-to-back World Cups in the 1980s, but after the minute’s applause what followed was a display that piled pressure on the current man in charge. Six years to the day since Northern Ireland’s first game of Euro 2016, there was scant evidence to suggest Baraclough is building a side capable of getting back to the tournament in 2024.

They started the month targeting top spot in Group 2 and a playoff place. There may well be a playoff to come, but if there is it will be to avoid relegation to League D.

Northern Ireland started with plenty of positive intent. McNair, back after injury kept him out of Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Kosovo, wanted a penalty with nine minutes gone after he tumbled in box after a smart ball forward by Daniel Ballard. Cyprus, who held Northern Ireland last week, had shown the odd threat on the break but it was against the run of play that they took the lead with 32 minutes gone.

The goal was all too simple, a bending free-kick from Chambos Kyriakou which Kakoullis met with a glancing header as he got in front of Shea Charles, beating Trevor Carson who was in for the injured Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Boos rang out around Windsor Park. Northern Ireland tried to respond. From McNair’s corner, Steven Davis hit a rising half-volley which was touched over by the goalkeeper Andreas Christodoulou.

Paddy McNair celebrates starting Northern Ireland’s comeback against Cyprus
Paddy McNair celebrates starting Northern Ireland’s comeback against Cyprus. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Encouraged, fans got to their feet and another chance came when Conor McMenamin’s low shot was charged down by a combination of the goalkeeper and Kostakis Artymatas.

But things got worse six minutes into the second half. Dimitris Christofi charged towards goal, playing in Marinos Tzionis who skipped away from Brodie Spencer. Tzionis mis-hit his shot but got it beyond Carson and Kakoullis arrived to tap in.

Northern Ireland’s first goal came after a rash of substitutions, and three of the replacements were involved. Conor Bradley looked to have run out of room on the byline but Dion Charles nipped in and played the ball back to Niall McGinn. Though his shot was blocked, it fell for McNair who could not miss from a yard out.

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Northern Ireland pushed for an equaliser. Charles warmed the palms of the goalkeeper, McGinn had a chip turned over from just under the crossbar, and Bradley failed to keep a shot down from close range. It came at the death when Charles flicked on a cross from the right and Evans slid in to poke home, though it only partially papered over the cracks.



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