UEFA Nations League Report: Northern Ireland 1 - 2 Bosnia and HerzegovinaSat, Sep 08 2018
Dave Donnelly reports from Windsor Park
Northern Ireland were left to rue missed opportunities as they were beaten by an efficient Bosnia and Herzegovina side in their opening UEFA Nations League game at Windsor Park.
Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell had a competitive debut to forget as his errors played a part in both of the clinical Bosnian side's goals.
Will Grigg's goal in the third minute proved too little too late as the damage had been done either side of half time with the concession of avoidable goals and a succession of missed chances.
The home side began at a feverish pace and had a good claim to be awarded within the first minute when George Saville appeared to be bundled over in the box.
Czech referee Pavel Kralovec – who was in charge of their historic first-ever European Championships win over Ukraine in Lyon in 2016 – was less convinced.
And the official seemed lenient in the extreme when he allowed Muhamed Besic, deputising at left back, off with a warning when he chopped down Sttuart Dallas near the touchline.
It was a symptom of the Bosnians' early play that they hit the man as often as the ball – Eldar Civic was booked for a wild lunge on Steven Davis, and Miralem Pjanic followed him into the book.
Oliver Norwood curled an early free kick over the bar following a handball by Toni Sunjic, but the North's dominance really began to tell as the half neared its midway point.
Niall McGinn beat Civic to a loose ball, possibly with the aid of his hand, and surged into the box before unleashing a powerful volley Ibrahim Sehic had to punch clear.
A lovely turn in the box by Conor McLaughlin allowed him to slide an inviting low cross in the box that Saville was centimetres from turning in.
Another great chance went abegging for Davis as Kyle Lafferty took the ball off his toe, while Jonny Evans' header didn't have the power to trouble Sehic.
Inevitably, their failure to turn pressure into a goal cost Northern Ireland as Bosnia took the lead with essentially their first meaningful attack.
A poor kick from keeper Peacock-Farrell allowed Pjanic to pick out Edin Dzeko, who was far too easily allowed to cross by McLaughlin and Duljevic finished with a deft touch.
It was rough justice on the home side, who had shown all the endeavour to date, but in Dzeko Bosnia had a player with the extra bit of quality to find the killer pass they lacked.
And yet Northern Ireland could, and should, have equalised 11 minutes after the break when only a world-class save from the impressive Sehic denied Lafferty.
Evans flicked on Norwood's free kick from the right and it was turned goalwards at the back post by Lafferty but Sehic, who is normally second-choice behind Asmir Begovic, came up with the goods.
The sense it wasn't going to be Northern Ireland's night was confirmed by the concession of the second – and killer – goal just past the hour.
Peacock-Farrell's debut turned sour as the Leeds United keeper was beaten to Evans' back-header by Elvis Saric, and the midfielder slotted home a second.
Things very nearly got worse for the home side as Dzeko picked the ball up outside the box and cut inside before curling his shot off the post and wide.
Still there was time for Northern Ireland to attempt a comeback and a rare error from Sehic saw his poor kick fall to Norwood.
His shot was blocked by a defender but fell nicely for substitute Liam Boyce, but with just the keeper to beat he was thwarted by the legs of the BB Erzurumspot netminder.
Boyce would have a role in fellow sub Will Grigg's injury-time goal, turning the ball back inside for the Wigan Athletic striker after Davis' corner wasn't cleared by the Bosnian defence.
And Grigg could have levelled moments later as Jamal Lewis' header dropped to him in the box, but he couldn't adjust his body quick enough to make a good purchase.
Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Conor McLaughlin (Liam Boyce 69), Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Jamal Lewis; George Saville, Steven Davis, Oliver Norwood; Niall McGinn (Jamie Ward 76), Stuart Dallas, Kyle Lafferty (Will Grigg 69).
Subs not used: Trevor Carson (gk), Michael McGovern (gk), Michael Smith, Paddy McNair, Shane Ferguson, Corry Evans, Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte, Conor Washington.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ibrahim Sehic; Muhamed Besic, Toni Sunjic, Ervin Zukanovic, Eldar Civic (Goran Zakaric 76); Elvis Saric (Rade Krunic 67), Gojko Cimirot, Miralem Pjanic (Riad Bajic 83); Edin Visca, Haris Duljevic, Edin Dzeko.
Subs not used: Vedran Kjosevski (gk), Kenan Piric (gk), Bojan Nastic, Sanjin Prcic, Kenan Kodro-Maksumic, Goran Zakaric, Deni Milosevic.
Booked: Eldar Civic (10), Miralem Pjanic (30), Edin Dzeko (50), Ibrahim Sehic (83).
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ibrahim Sehic (Bosnia and Herzegovina).