Release Date: 03/03/2010
NORTHERN Irelandís disappointing away form continued with defeat to Albania in difficult conditions in Tirana on Wednesday evening.
Nigel Worthington's side slipped to a narrow one goal defeat in the Qemal Stafa Stadium in a game that was in doubt right up until a few hours before kick-off due to the heavy rain that had affected the area this week.
What proved to be the only goal of the game arrived on 26 minutes when 33-year-old midfielder Ervin Skela, currently playing for 2. Bundesliga side TuS Koblenz, dispatched a superbly executed free-kick past Maik Taylor from 25 yards after George McCartney had been penalised for bringing down Erjon Bogdani.
Indeed, it was no less than Albania deserved following a promising opening period which saw Ansi Agolli, Klodian Duro and Skela himself all go close.
Northern Ireland looked much more like the side we know they are after the break and might have levelled on 61 minutes after Grant McCann delivered a corner for Stephen Craigan to headed against the crossbar.
And Craigan was thwarted again 13 minutes later when a second effort struck an upright while debutant Rory Patterson saw his attempt at knocking home the rebound denied by 'keeper Isli Hidi.
Albania: Hidi, Lila, Dallku, Vangjeli, Angolli, Lala, Curri, Bulku, Duro, Skela, Bogdani subs Cana (replaced Angolli 64), Hyka (replaced Lala), Kapllani (replaced Bulku 86), Bakaj (replaced Duro 78), Vila (replaced Skela 81), Salihi (replaced Bogdani 46), Beqaj (not used)
Northern Ireland: Taylor, Little, McGivern, McCartney, Craigan, O'Connor, McGinn, Davis, Healy, Lafferty, McCann subs Tuffey (replaced Taylor 72), C. Evans (replaced O'Connor 46), Shiels (replaced McGinn 46), Kirk (replaced Healy 78), Carson (not used), Patterson (replaced Lafferty 64)
A number of Northern Ireland's Euro 2012 opponents were also in action on the first international date of the year.
Italy drew 0-0 at home to Cameroon, Serbia defeated Algeria 3-0 in Algiers, Slovenia cruised to a 4-1 victory over Qatar and Estonia slipped to a 2-1 defeat in Georgia.
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