Northern Ireland fall to heavy defeat at the hands of Croatia.

Northern Ireland 0-3 Croatia

Northern Ireland fell to a heavy defeat against Croatia in their final match of 2016 at Windsor Park on Tuesday.  Croatia ranked sixteenth in the World started the brighter as Tin Jedvaj played an angled pass into Marko Rog who’s shot was saved by Alan Mannus .

Michael O’Neil was experimenting with his team making significant changes from Friday nights victory over Azerbaijan including Liam Boyce as the front man .

Croatia however took the lead on nine minutes thanks to Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic as he poked home after Mannus had initially parried a Duje Cop strike from an acute angle. 

Boyce did have the next chance on twelve minutes as Oliver Norwood played him through but Croatian keeper Lovre Kalinic was quick to react to clear . 

Northern Ireland were struggling to find a way back into the game but did have a half chance on thirty four minutes as Gareth McAuley got on the end of Norwoods free-kick but his header across the face of goal couldn’t be turned in. 

A minute later the visitors had their second when Cop flicked in after some static Northern Irish defending from a corner as he was left unmarked .

Ante Cacics side nearly went in Three-Nil ahead at the break when Mandzukic got on the end of Domagoj Vida long ball but shot into the side netting . 

O’Neil made a trio of changes at Half-Time including the introduction of captain Steven Davis to try and bring his side to life.

However it was Croatia who created another opening when Cop played in Andrej Krameric once a record signing of Premier League champions Leicester City but he fired over.

Boyce had a perfect chance to pull a goal back on sixty four minutes as he met a Paddy McNair low cross but he shot into the arms of Kalinic. 

McNair then had a good opportunity of his own shortly afterwards as he cannoned a volley wide from just outside the penalty area. 

Croatia had their third on sixty seven minutes through Krameric who took his goal extremely well volleying high into the top corner of the net leaving Mannus with little chance of saving . 

 A disappointing defeat for the home side their first defeat at Windsor Park in three years .


 By Josh Bunting

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