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Neil Lennon raging at Celtic snub in Player of the Year

A slap in the face! Lennon's anger at Celtic stars' absence from PFA shortlist

By
Stephen Mcgowan

PUBLISHED:

12:26 GMT, 25 April 2013

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UPDATED:

23:12 GMT, 25 April 2013

Neil Lennon has vowed to boycott the PFA Scotland awards dinner — after branding the absence of any Celtic stars from the Player of the Year shortlist ‘abysmal’.

A vote by the nation’s professional players ahead of the Players’ Union dinner will see Motherwell’s Michael Higdon, Inverness Caley Thistle’s Andrew Shinnie, Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn and Hibernian’s Leigh Griffiths battle it out for the top prize.

Irate that the feats of his players in winning the SPL title and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League have earned no recognition from their peers, however, Lennon — who is likely to be shortlisted for Manager of the Year — will vote with his feet on May 5 by staying away from the annual Glasgow dinner.

Three out of four: (from left) Niall McGinn, Andrew Shinnie and Michael Higdon are up for the PFA Scotland award

Three out of four: (from left) Niall McGinn, Andrew Shinnie and Michael Higdon are up for the PFA Scotland award

‘I won’t go, no,’ said the Celtic boss.

‘The players haven’t discussed that yet. There weren’t many of them in yesterday, so I’ll speak to them tomorrow and see how they feel about it.

‘I’m surprised to say the least. Are you voting for the best player in Scotland or are you voting for the most improved player

‘I have no axe to grind with any of the nominees — I think that they have all had fine seasons.

‘But for none of our first-team players to be on the senior shortlist is bewildering to say the least.

‘I think the outcome of those votes yesterday belittles all those efforts from the players. It is abysmal.’

Not good enough: Neil Lennon has hit out after his Celtic players were overlooked for the PFA Scotland award

Not good enough: Neil Lennon has hit out after his Celtic players were overlooked for the PFA Scotland award

Celtic players have won the PFA Scotland award in the main category in six of the last seven years.
Of the view that their peers have taken his side’s domestic dominance for granted in the absence of Rangers, however, Lennon describes the perceived snub to his team as a ‘slap in the face’.

‘The players are not happy. They feel as if they’ve been slapped in the face, almost. There was a bit of ill-feeling there yesterday,’ he said.

‘I do feel the influence you media guys have — and I’m not blaming you guys — with the nonsense about “one-horse race”, “foregone conclusion” and “no competition” all plays a part in people taking the club, or the players, for granted.

‘Hooper’s got 28 goals this season and
people keep telling me that he’s not having his best season. But he’s
two goals short of 30, which is a pretty decent return for a
24-year-old.’

Young guns: Dundee United pair Gary Mackay-Steven (left) and Stuart Armstrong (right) are nominated with Celtic's Victor Wanyama

Young guns: Dundee United pair Gary Mackay-Steven (left) and Stuart Armstrong (right) are nominated with Celtic's Victor Wanyama

‘We made the last 16 of the Champions League with 10 points, which is a record for a Scottish team.

‘And on a budget which was very limited compared to other clubs in the past — so these players have performed heroically.

‘Semi-final of the League Cup, Scottish Cup Final, championship … I don’t think they could have done much more this season, really, and for that not to be recognised by their peers is very disappointing.’

Aberdeen midfielder Jim Bett was the last non-Old Firm player to collect the accolade, back in 1989-90.

Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew collected the main prize last year.

Queens Park 0 Rangers 1: Match report

Queen's Park 0 Rangers 1: Aird leaves it late as Gers sneak past 10 men at Hampden

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UPDATED:

15:02 GMT, 29 December 2012

A last-gasp goal from substitute Fraser Aird ensured Rangers' winning streak continued as they claimed victory over 10-man Queen's Park.

The clash at the national stadium looked set to end goalless before the injury-time strike sealed a 10th win in a row for the Irn-Bru Third Division leaders.

The Old Firm clash with Celtic may be the most famous in Scottish football but the original Glasgow derby actually took place between Queen's Park and Rangers.

Beter late than never: Fraser Aird celebrates his injury-time winner for Rangers

Beter late than never: Fraser Aird celebrates his injury-time winner for Rangers

MATCH FACTS

Queen's Park: Parry, McGinn, Little, Brough, Robertson, Gallacher, Anderson, Keenan, Watt (Connolly 75), Quinn, Shankland (McParland 89).

Subs not used: Lochhead, Bradley, Longworth

Booked: Watt, Brough, Gallacher, Anderson, Shankland, Connolly

Sent off: Brough

Rangers:
Alexander, Hegarty, Perry, Emilson Cribari, Wallace, Crawford, Black
(Aird 64), Hutton (Sandaza 71), McKay, McCulloch, Templeton.

Subs not used: Currie, Cole, Faure

Goal: Aird 90+2

Booked: Black,

Referee: William Collum

Attendance: 30,117

And, according to the official match-day programme, it is also the oldest surviving senior derby in world football.

The meeting between both clubs at Ibrox earlier this season saw the resumption of a fixture first played 135 years ago.

Today's match – in front of a crowd of 30,117 – was the first Hampden clash between the sides since November 1957, when Rangers came out on top as 4-2 winners.

Ally McCoist was forced to make two changes from the side which defeated Clyde on Boxing Day.

Andy Little was sidelined through injury, while Lewis Macleod revealed on Twitter before kick-off that he was ill with a virus, meaning he was absent for the first time this season.

Queen's Park had given Rangers a tough match at Ibrox in October and they looked well up for this encounter, carving out a couple of chances early on.

A free-kick 20 yards out provided an opportunity to put the visitors under pressure but Michael Keenan was wasteful with an effort that was well off-target.

Familiar surroundings: Gers boss Ally McCoist has been a regular visitor to Hampden Park over the years

Familiar surroundings: Gers boss Ally McCoist has been a regular visitor to Hampden Park over the years

David Anderson came closer when he tried his luck with a shot from just outside the box which fizzed across goal and just wide of the upright.

The best chance so far fell to Rangers when a lovely cross from the left from Barrie McKay set up David Templeton for a shot that flashed inches over the crossbar.

Robbie Crawford was not too far away when he met a Black cross 10 yards out and bulleted a header just over, as the first half ended goalless.

Getting tight: Rangers ace David Templeton (right) and Michael Keenan battle for the ball

Getting tight: Rangers ace David Templeton (right) and Michael Keenan battle for the ball

Rangers continued to push for the opener after the restart and a lofted effort from Lee McCulloch landed on the roof of the net, with Neil Parry untroubled in goal.

The goalkeeper was then called into action to make an impressive save to deny McKay, who unleashed a powerful drive after a one-two with McCulloch.

Queen's Park were dealt a blow when they were reduced to 10 men when James Brough picked up a second caution for a foul on Templeton after 56 minutes.

Start the party: Aird (No 17) leads the way as the Rangers players celebrate his late goal against Queen's Park

Start the party: Aird (No 17) leads the way as the Rangers players celebrate his late goal against Queen's Park

Parry reacted quickly again to snuff out another Rangers threat, this time racing off his line to block from Lee Wallace, who had been teed up by Templeton.

Aird had replaced Black and Francisco Sandaza was thrown into the action for Kyle Hutton with 20 minutes to go, with Rangers struggling to break down a stubborn Spiders side.

The Spanish striker was clearly aiming to make an immediate impact but his finishing let him down as he rifled into the side-netting.

Hard to handle: Paul Gallacher has a nibble at Templeton and the Gers player ends up on the deck

Hard to handle: Paul Gallacher has a nibble at Templeton and the Gers player ends up on the deck

The home side could have snatched the points when Aidan Connolly released Lawrence Shankland in plenty of space but his shot lacked power and was easily smothered by Neil Alexander.

Shankland had the chance to make amends with a free-kick that escaped the grasp of the Rangers goalkeeper but swerved past the far post.

Sandaza again rippled the side-netting for Rangers, before Aird grabbed the winner in injury time with a shot from just outside the area that squeezed past several bodies in the box and nestled in the bottom corner.

Aberdeen 0 Celtic 2 match report: Lassad Nouioui and Charlie Mulgrew goals

Aberdeen 0 Celtic 2: Late salvo sees off Dons and gets Bhoys back to winning ways

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UPDATED:

15:11 GMT, 17 November 2012

Celtic made hard work of it but eventually netted twice in the final quarter of the game to defeat Aberdeen and jump to the top of the SPL, albeit with Hibs yet to play.

Lassad Nouioui opened the scoring when he stroked into an empty net in the 73rd minute, having only come on for Kris Commons four minutes earlier. Charlie Mulgrew added a second against his former club three minutes later.

Despite the early kick-off, the crowds arrived in their numbers as Pittodrie basked in the lunchtime sun.

Game over: Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew is mobbed after netting the second

Game over: Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew sparks wild scenes after netting the second

Match facts

Aberdeen: Langfield, Reynolds, Considine, Anderson, Magennis, Rae (Robertson 46), Osbourne, Clark, Fraser (Vernon 64), McGinn, Hayes (Fallon 78). Subs not used: Jason Brown, Shaughnessy, Masson, Smith.

Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew, Lustig, Wanyama, Kayal, Commons (Nouioui 69), Samaras (McGeouch 80), Watt. Subs not used: Zaluska, Nouioui, McCourt, Ibrahim, Atajic, Chalmers, McGeouch.

Goals: Nouioui 73, Mulgrew 77.

Referee: Craig Thomson.

Attendance: 18,000.

The latest SPL table, fixtures and results

The home support were boosted by
teenage winger Ryan Fraser's swift recovery from an ankle knock
sustained in their 4-1 win over St Mirren last week. The only change to
the side that had started that game saw Gavin Rae return in place of
Clark Robertson.

Celtic, who had disappointingly drawn
with St Johnstone, handed Tony Watt a start after the promising young
striker came off the bench to find the net against the Saints. He
replaced Venezuelan striker Miku in attack.

There were two further alterations to
Neil Lennon's starting eleven, with midfielders Scott Brown and Joe
Ledley missing out. Mikael Lustig and Beram Kayal took their places in
the side.

As early as the second minute, Josh
Magennis' strong run up the right flank for Aberdeen allowed him to slip
a pass to Johnny Hayes, only for the former Inverness Caledonian
Thistle winger to send his left-footed shot into the side netting.

And five minutes later, the Dons' top
scorer Niall McGinn fashioned an opening with neat play on the edge of
the area, but Fraser Forster was able to gather comfortably.

On the scoresheet: Lassad Nouioui turns to celebrate after netting the first

On the scoresheet: Lassad Nouioui turns to celebrate after netting the first

/11/17/article-2234376-16139382000005DC-11_634x495.jpg” width=”634″ height=”495″ alt=”No holds barred: Gavin Rae goes in hard on Kris Commons” class=”blkBorder” />

No holds barred: Gavin Rae goes in hard on Kris Commons

Celtic came closest yet as Commons
retrieved a half-cleared Mulgrew corner on the left and swung a
dangerous cross to the far post, where Watt headed off the base of the
post.

Just after the half-hour, Chris Clark
created space to cross from the left for the Dons and though McGinn got
in the way of an initial header from Magennis, the former Celtic man
reacted quickly to send a low shot narrowly wide of Forster's right-hand
upright.

The Dons made a change at the
interval with Robertson replacing Rae, who had been touch and go before
the match. And the home side had some pressure early in the second half,
culminating in a Magennis throw being headed narrowly over by Anderson.

Celtic were presented with a fine
opportunity when Andrew Considine brought down Commons 22 yards out.
Mulgrew took the free-kick but looped his effort high and wide of the
far post.

Aberdeen were dealt a blow when
Fraser was again forced off just after the hour, limping from the pitch
to be replaced by Scott Vernon.

On the run: Georgios Samaras evades Gavin Rae

On the run: Georgios Samaras evades Gavin Rae

The Dons were undeterred, however,
and after 68 minutes they had their best chance yet. McGinn cut the ball
back for Hayes, and the Irishman set himself before firing low into the
side netting.

But the deadlock was finally broken
five minutes later, and the goal came for Celtic. Wanyama crashed a
25-yard shot off Jamie Langfield's left-hand post, and all newcomer
Nouioui had to do was roll the ball home.

Boosted by their goal, Celtic added a
second just three minutes later. Samaras crossed from the left and, at
the back post, Mulgrew acrobatically volleyed home left-footed.

The visitors had the ball in the net
again when Wanyama headed home at the back post, but the flag had
already been raised for offside against the Celtic man.

Northern Ireland 1 Azerbaijan 1: David Healy strikes late

Northern Ireland 1 Azerbaijan 1: Healy's late leveller salvages point on frustrating night

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UPDATED:

01:59 GMT, 15 November 2012

David Healy's dramatic late equaliser salvaged a point but may not be enough to rescue Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying hopes on a night of non-stop frustration for Michael O'Neill at Windsor Park.

The hosts looked like paying for wasting a succession of clear-cut chances, until Healy stepped off the bench and curled a free-kick into the bottom corner seconds from time.

On his 94th appearance, it was the Northern Ireland record marksman's 36th goal but his first since scoring against San Marino four years ago.

At the death: David Healy struck late to help Northern Ireland scrape a point

At the death: David Healy struck late to help Northern Ireland scrape a point

Match facts

Northern Ireland: Carroll, D Lafferty, Cathcart (Healy 81), Hughes, Ferguson, Davis, Baird, McAuley, McGinn (Brunt 66), Shiels (McCourt 55), K Lafferty.

Subs not used: Mannus, Evans, Norwood, Grigg, McGovern.

Booked: K Lafferty, D Lafferty, Baird, Shiels, Healy

Goal: Aliyev 5

Azerbaijan: Salahat Agayev, Levin, Abusov, Ramaldanov (Naziri 72), Medvedev, Gokdemir (Guseynov 63), Huseynov, Amirquliev, Nadirov, Aliyev, Ozkara (Jadarov 78).

Subs not used: Popovich, Sadygov, Chertoganov, Subasic, Ahmadov, Mammadov, Pamuk, Nazirov.

Booked: Agayev, Levin, Huseynov, Aliyev

Goal: Healy 90

Att: 12,327

Ref: Victor Shvetsov (Ukraine)

If the Bury striker's brilliant
set-piece kept Northern Ireland in the hunt for a place at the World Cup
finals in Brazil, their hopes are flickering, at best.

'It was hugely frustrating to create so many clear chances and only end up with a point,' O'Neill said.

'But credit to the players. We were
chasing the game but they never let their heads drop. They kept going to
the very end. We are still in it.'

After dropping two points at home to
Luxembourg, O'Neill's side needed to build on last month's
morale-boosting draw in Portugal.

Instead, they had their manager
tearing his hair out with finishing that had to be seen to be believed.
Kyle Lafferty set the tone early on by heading over from six yards, and
it was to prove costly, as Azerbaijan striker Rauf Aliyev stunned
Windsor Park with a 25-yard drive after five minutes.

Lafferty then failed to control a
Steve Davis pass with the goal at his mercy in the 27th minute, and
Craig Cathcart somehow steered an unchallenged six-yard header wide in
the 31st minute.


Good start: Azerbaijan players celebrate Rauf Aliyev's opening goal

Good start: Azerbaijan players celebrate Rauf Aliyev's opening goal

Cathcart failed again from close
range and Chris Baird continued the tale of woe with a strong contender
for miss of the night on the hour.

There was plenty of competition but
Baird headed wide of a gaping goal from just four yards. Chances
continued to be wasted and Northern Ireland were running out of time but
Healy took responsibility from the edge of the area and buried a
free-kick, to roars of relief from a packed Windsor Park.

Tussle: Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty battles with Azerbaijan's Ali Gokdemir

Tussle: Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty battles with Azerbaijan's Ali Gokdemir

In the nick of time: Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill saw his side scrape a draw

In the nick of time: Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill saw his side scrape a draw

Portugal 1 Northern Ireland 1 match report: Cristiano Ronaldo wins 100th cap

Portugal 1 Northern Ireland 1: McGinn spoils Ronaldo party as O'Neill's men secure superb point

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UPDATED:

22:40 GMT, 16 October 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo reached a personal milestone but was upstaged by a winger of distinctly humbler standing, as Northern Ireland came within 10 minutes of a result to compare with any in their history, here in the Estadio do Dragao.

Ronaldo loooked earmarked for a pivotal role, on his 100th Portugal appearance, but was left staring at a humiliating defeat after Niall McGinn, freed by Celtic in the summer and snapped up by Aberdeen on a two-year contract, fired Northern Ireland into a shock 30th-minute lead.

Breaking the deadlock: Niall McGinn scores the opening goal past Rui Patricio

Breaking the deadlock: Niall McGinn scores the opening goal past Rui Patricio

Oh, happy days: Kyle Lafferty grabs McGinn in front of the Northern Irish faithful

Oh, happy days: Kyle Lafferty grabs McGinn in front of the Northern Irish faithful

Match facts

Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira (Eder 74), Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Lopes (Ruben Amorim 46), Veloso, Ruben Micael (Varela 61), Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Postiga. Subs not used: Eduardo, Nelson, Custodio, Pizzi, Nelson Oliveira, Sereno, Luis Neto, Beto.

Scorer: Postiga 79.

Northern Ireland: Carroll, McGivern, Cathcart, Jonathan Evans, Hughes, Baird, Davis, Corry Evans, McGinn, Norwood, Kyle Lafferty. Subs not used: Mannus, Hodson, Shiels, Healy, McCourt, Danny Lafferty, Grigg, Carson, McGovern.

Booked: Hughes.

Scorer: McGinn 30.

Referee: Thorsten Kinhoefer (Germany).

Former Tottenham striker Helder Postiga
finally rescued his side with a scrambled 80th-minute equaliser, but
there was no denying Northern Ireland's right to a point that dented
Portugal's qualification hopes and made a mockery of the 114 places
between the nations in the latest FIFA rankings.

Portugal were made to look
third-rate, rather than third best in the world, by a disciplined,
determined Northern Ireland side marshalled expertly by a brilliant
exhibition of poise and flawless positioning by an inspired Jonny Evans.

Even though Postiga's close-range
leveller denied Northern Ireland a famous victory, there was enough
about the result and performance to leave manager Michael O'Neill
beaming: 'It's for others to say where that ranks alongside what has
happened in the past, but I'm just immensely proud of the effort all the
players put in.

'Everyone played their part, from
Niall scoring a goal worthy of winning the game to Jonny, who looked
like he could slot into any team in the world.

Fans' favourite: Portuguese supporters show their appreciation of Cristiano Ronaldo

Fans' favourite: Portuguese supporters show their appreciation of Cristiano Ronaldo

'I have had Jonny for four games now,
and he has been a joy to work with. He is going to be a leader of men,
within any team he plays for. I have seen that recently with his
performances for Manchester United, and I thought his composure on the
ball and leadership qualities were fantastic.

'The boys are actually very
disappointed they only drew the game, after coming so close to winning.
We knew we would have to defend for our lives at times, and that was the
case in the second half. But then they showed so much character again
to hold on for a point at the end.'

Level pegging: Helder Postiga broke Northern Irish hearts

Level pegging: Helder Postiga broke Northern Irish hearts

Ronaldo's century of appearances was
marked in fitting style. A giant banner, draped over the upper tier of a
stand, hailed him as the best in the world and stretched from one
penalty area to the other, while his 100th cap was presented before
kick-off and doffed to all corners.

Eager though he was to remain the centre of attention, his former Old Trafford colleague Evans had other ideas.

It never rains: Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during a downpour in Porto

It never rains: Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during a downpour in Porto

The United centre-back was imperious
at the heart of Northern Ireland's defence, stretching to cut out a
dangerous Nani cross early on, timing tackles to perfection and showing
remarkable composure in possession.

Repeatedly, he had the self-assurance
to play his way out of trouble, rather than simply clear his lines, and
it led to a 30th-minute breakthrough that stunned a capacity home
crowd.

On the run: Nani escapes the attentions of Oliver Norwood

On the run: Nani escapes the attentions of Oliver Norwood

Surrounded by opponents near the
centre circle, Evans expertly evaded all attempts to disposses him and
slid a pass into the path of Kyle Lafferty. When Lafferty immediately
relayed it to McGinn, the Aberdeen winger was suddenly in on goal for an
opportunity he finished with aplomb.

As Rui Patricio raced from his line,
McGinn clipped a shot beyond him, before sprinting to take the acclaim
of a 1,300-strong travelling support near the corner flag.

Jump to it: Postiga vies with Jonny Evans and keeper Roy Carroll

Jump to it: Postiga vies with Jonny Evans and keeper Roy Carroll

It said much for Northern Ireland's
highly-effective containing job that the closest Portugal came to a
first-half goal was when Craig Cathcart inadvertently volleyed a Joao
Pereira cross against his own bar in the 36th minute.

Sensing the group may be slipping
away from them, after Russia beat Azerbaijan earlier in the day,
Portugal finally found some urgency in the second half, but still left
Roy Carroll untested until the 59th minute.

Clearing his lines: Bruno Alves makes no mistake

Clearing his lines: Bruno Alves makes no mistake

The Olympiacos keeper was up to the
task, as he instinctively stuck out a boot to block a low shot from
Ronaldo, following a right-wing cross by Nani.

Cathcart was living dangerously at
times and went perilously close to an own goal again in the 63rd minute,
slicing an attempted clearance and seeing the ball loop over Carroll
and land on the roof of the net.

Ganging up: Lafferty skips away from three Portuguese

Ganging up: Lafferty skips away from three Portuguese

Mounting home pressure at last
yielded its reward in the 80th minute, as substitute Varela headed back a
deep cross and Postiga forced the ball home from close range.

Portugal may claim their improved
second half performance merited as much, but one thing was beyond
dispute. Northern Ireland had thoroughly deserved any luck that went
their way.

Cristiano Ronaldo won"t be man-marked by Northern Ireland

Man-marking Ronaldo is too risky, says Northern Ireland boss O'Neill

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 15 October 2012

Michael O'Neill did his best to sound optimistic, but the reasons for not man-marking Cristiano Ronaldo only underlined the mammoth task facing Northern Ireland in Porto on Tuesday night.

The Northern Ireland manager gave some consideration to shadowing Portugal’s Real Madrid forward but swiftly discounted it, for fear of being reduced to 10 men in the opening minutes.

‘To be honest, having watched a lot of games Ronaldo has played for club and country, and what happens with the refereeing, it is very difficult to man-mark him,’ he said.

Dangerman: Portugal captain Ronaldo

Dangerman: Portugal captain Ronaldo

‘The player you designate runs a real risk of a yellow card in the first 10 or 15 minutes and is walking a tightrope after that.

‘You can’t very well then ask someone else to take over, because your whole tactical approach becomes a lottery. Anyway, he plays with so much freedom, and attacks from so many different angles, it would only distort the balance of the team.

‘We know what we are up against. We can hope against hope that his 100th cap turns into a huge letdown for him and his country, but the reality is he’s a goal machine, as well as being brilliantly creative.

Tough ask: O'Neill oversees training in Porto on Monday

Tough ask: O'Neill oversees training in Porto on Monday

Northern Ireland team:

Carroll; Cathcart, Hughes, J Evans, McGivern; McGinn, C Evans, Davis, Baird, Norwood; Lafferty.

‘I have seen him miss chances and prove he is human, but we don’t need reminding what he can do from set-pieces or in the air. But can we get men round him to make life difficult for him Can we reduce the amount of possession he gets by working hard in other areas Of course, on both counts.

‘We did well for long periods in Russia, without any reward, but this is going to be even tougher. All the expectation is lumped on Portugal, though. That’s not always easy to deal with, and we intend making it all the harder for them.’

Northern Ireland 0 Norway 3: Same old problems for new man Michael O"Neill

Northern Ireland 0 Norway 3: Same old problems for new man O'Neill

Michael O'Neill's first match in charge of Northern Ireland ended in defeat as a deflected opener and two late goals gave Norway a comfortable victory at Windsor Park.

Things started brightly enough, with the hosts having the best of the first period only to go behind a minute before the break after Sammy Clingan diverted Havard Nordtveit's shot past Lee Camp.

Tarik Elyounoussi then doubled the winning margin with a neat shot on the turn and Espen Ruud's volley sealed it in added time.

Fortunate goal: Havard Nordtveit celebrates his goal with Marcus Henriksen

Fortunate goal: Havard Nordtveit celebrates his goal with Marcus Henriksen

MATCH FACTS

Northern Ireland: Camp, McAuley, Hughes, Jonathan Evans, McGivern, Corry Evans, Clingan, Davis, Ferguson, Shiels, Paterson.

Subs: Mannus, Hodson, McGinn, Healy, McCann, Duff, McQuoid, McCourt, Carson, McGovern.

Norway: Jarstein, Hogli, Rogne, Demidov, Riise, Henriksen, Nordtveit, Grindheim, Pedersen, Abdellaoui, Huseklepp.

Subs: Pettersen, Reginiussen, Elyounoussi, Ruud, Jenssen, Braaten, Berisha.

O'Neill's first teamsheet included
recalled duo Dean Shiels and Shane Ferguson, both absent from the
national set-up for the last two years of Nigel Worthington's tenure.

There was also a change at the back,
with Jonny Evans given the chance to establish himself in his preferred
centre-back position in place of Gareth McAuley, who was shifted to
right-back.

David Healy started on the bench but
with 17 minutes left became his country's most capped outfield player –
cap number 92 taking him clear of Mal Donaghy.

Northern Ireland's first attack, in
the second minute, saw full-back Ryan McGivern break down the left and
fire a powerful effort at goal.

Goalkeeper Rune Jarstein reacted well
to tip it over the crossbar only for Shiels to produce a tame header
from the resulting corner.

Holding off: Northern Ireland Dean Shiels battles with Norway's Christian Grindham

Holding off: Northern Ireland Dean Shiels battles with Norway's Christian Grindham

Ferguson was next to try his luck down the left and his deflected cross just evaded Martin Paterson on the six-yard line.

The lively start found the fans in
noticeably better voice than they had been at the end of the Worthington
era, with O'Neill's arrival in the technical area warmly welcomed.

Clingan was using the ball well in
midfield, freeing Ferguson again as a quick Northern Ireland break again
stretched the visiting defence.

Norway were content to counter-attack in the opening 20 minutes, but too often left Mohammed Abdellaoue isolated up front.

New era, same result: Northern Ireland's Steven Davis vies with Norway's Morten Gamst Pedersen

New era, same result: Northern Ireland's Steven Davis vies with Norway's Morten Gamst Pedersen

Northern Ireland endured a nervy
moment after 25 minutes, a weak defensive header from Ferguson handing
Norway a clear opportunity on the right-hand side of the penalty area.

Luckily, it fell to full-back Tom Hogli, who blazed over.

Moments later Northern Ireland had the best chance so far.

Fight for the ball: Ryan McGivern vies with Norway's Valon Berisha for possession

Fight for the ball: Ryan McGivern vies with Norway's Valon Berisha for possession

Ferguson's cross was poorly dealt
with, leading to a frenetic couple of seconds that saw Steven Davis,
Paterson and McAuley all try to force the ball over the line from close
range.

Davis was closest to success, with McAuley's sliced effort ending the danger.

There was a warning for the home side too when Erik Huseklepp worked Camp at the near post.

John Arne Riise twice looked primed for spectacular volleys but made negligible contact with both attempts.

Three and easy: Espen Ruud celebrates scoring Norway's third goal

Three and easy: Espen Ruud celebrates scoring Norway's third goal

Norway did take the lead a minute
before the break when Aaron Hughes half-cleared a corner as far as
Nordtveit, whose low shot beat Camp via the unfortunate Clingan.

O'Neill made two changes at the
interval, Grant McCann on for Corry Evans and Michael Duff ending a
four-year exile in place of Hughes.

McCann was quick to make an
impression, winning the ball in midfield, carrying it 10 yards and
forcing a fingertip save from 25 yards.

At the other end Camp fumbled Riise's near-post effort but was lucky to see Daniel Braaten botch the rebound.

Shoulder to shoulder: Grant McCann keeps the ball away from Norway's Ruben Yttergard Jenssen

Shoulder to shoulder: Grant McCann keeps the ball away from Norway's Ruben Yttergard Jenssen

Shiels was lively in his role linking midfield and attack and his cross on the hour allowed Davis a header at goal.

A clever through ball from McGivern
then found Shiels clear of his man inside the area but a crucial saving
tackle snuffed out the danger.

With a little over 20 minutes remaining, O'Neill turned to winger Paddy McCourt, who came on for the impressive Ferguson.

The Celtic man was watched from the
stands by club boss Neil Lennon, returning to the ground where he was
once barracked by his own fans on international duty.

International bow: Northern Ireland's manager Michael O'Neill and Norway's manager Egil Olsen shake hands

International bow: Northern Ireland's manager Michael O'Neill and Norway's manager Egil Olsen shake hands

McCourt was quick to make an impact too, twice beating his man on the left and sending in testing crosses.

Healy, meanwhile, had been left
waiting long enough for his record-breaking appearance and he was next
off the bench to replace Paterson.

The Rangers striker was unable to mark the occasion with a goal but Norway had time for two more.
Elyounoussi extended the visitors' lead three minutes from time when he
beat Camp at the near post, before Ruud's superb stoppage-time volley
made it 3-0 despite the Nottingham Forest keeper getting a strong hand
to it.