Northern Ireland 0-0 Bulgaria: Hosts forced to settle for scoreless draw in Belfast

Josh Magennis was a danger to Northern Ireland.

Magennis headed just over the bar once more, but while he looked lively, his partner White was too far away from him too often and struggled to make an impact in the first half.

That changed shortly after the resumption when he latched on to a shot from Craig Cathcart, but his volley bounced off the ground, not giving him the strength to beat the visiting goalkeeper.

The former Crusaders striker was replaced shortly afterwards by Neil McGinn who, despite playing in a central role that was unfamiliar to him, also went close to scoring the final goal when he shot just over after good action.

NI running out of ideas as right-wing threat diminishes

Paddy McNair, who has shone mostly in midfield for Northern Ireland in recent years, was given an early goal against and had a relatively quiet first half apart from some good serial episodes.

But after the break Middlesbrough, in tandem with Dallas, began to attack the Bulgarians on the right flank behind the Bulgarian defence.

McNair sent in several low crosses that were well cleared by the visitors. One was Daniel Ballard who shot over the bar when he should have given the ball to White.

The series of small spins seemed well practised on the training ground, but although promising, it was Johnny Evans’ header on the crossbar that had the most impact.

As time passes, the Northern Irish run out of ideas. The dual replacement of Saville and Ballard with Matty Kennedy and Michael Smith did nothing to spark creativity, nor did the later insertion of Kyle Lafferty.

Baraclough looked to switch to a 4-4-2 formation, but their threat diminished and eventually they had to rely on a crucial save from Peacock-Farrell to avoid a potentially crushing defeat.

Paddy McNair (NI) created many chances but his evening ended in frustration.

Lengthy wait for resumption of application for qualification

Northern Ireland now have to wait more than five months to travel to Lithuania for the resumption of their World Cup qualifying campaign, which has stalled after just two games.

Few expected Baraclough’s team to beat in-form Italy last week, but Wednesday night’s game in Bulgaria was a huge opportunity for Baraclough to not only qualify, but also get their first 90-minute win, something they have gone 11 games without.

It was clear from the start that there was little attacking threat from Bulgaria, but the Northern Irish failed to convert their dominant ball possession into a scoreless draw.

Goal scoring has long been a problem for Northern Ireland, and Baraclough has clearly tried to solve it by changing the system to 3-5-2, but it doesn’t look like Magennis and Whyte are the perfect combination in attack to solve the scoring problem.

Dion Charles is fit enough to score goals for Accrington in League One and could be a possible solution, but after being included in the squad for the first time, Baraclough clearly felt he was not quite ready for the qualifiers.


Northern Ireland

4-1-3-2 formation






  • 1Pacock-Farrell
  • 4Ballard was placed by Smith at 74 minutes.
  • 5Evans
  • 20Catrix
  • 3Lewis
  • 8Davis.
  • 14Dallas
  • 17McNairReserved at 33Minutes
  • 6SavilleBay at 70. MinuteSwitch for Kennedy in the 74th minute.
  • 21MagennisReplaced by Lafferty in the 82nd minuteBocking in the 90th minute
  • 18WhyteSwapped for McGinnat 64’minutes


  • 2McLaughlin
  • 7McGinn
  • 9Karls
  • 10Lafferty.
  • 11Ferguson
  • 12Azard
  • 13-Evans
  • 15 Thompson
  • 16McCann
  • 19Smith
  • 22Kennedy
  • 23Hughes


3-5-2 Training





  • 1Naumov
  • 2HristovReserved at 24minutes
  • 4AntovaAfter 45 min.
  • 22Christow
  • 17YumovReplaced by Karagarenat 73’min
  • 8VutovSubstituted for Ilievat 45’min
  • 7KostadinovReplaced by Vitanovat 44 minutes
  • 18Chochev
  • 21 TsvetanovReplaced by Zanevat 73 minutes
  • 9GalabinovReplaced by Ilievat 73’minPlacing in 86 miles.
  • 11Desodes


  • 3Zanev
  • 5Vitans.
  • 6Caragarians
  • 10Delev
  • 12Iliyev
  • 13Karayov
  • 14Dimov
  • 15Bozhikov
  • 16Malinov
  • 19Iliyev
  • 20Iliyev
  • 23Iliyev

Real-time text

  1. End of match, Northern Ireland 0, Bulgaria 0.
  2. End of the second half, Northern Ireland 0, Bulgaria 0.
  3. The attempt failed. Atanas Iliev (Bulgaria) header from the centre of the box goes just over. Prepared by Peter Zanev with a cross.
  4. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) receives a warning from the referee.
  5. Corner, Bulgaria. Designed by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
  6. Rescue attempt. Dimitar Iliev (Bulgaria) headed from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Prepared by Kirill Despodov with a cross.
  7. Corner, Bulgaria. Presented by Craig Cathcart.
  8. Corner, Northern Ireland. Prepared by Atanas Iliev.
  9. Atanas Iliev (Bulgaria) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
  10. Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
  11. Atanas Iliev (Bulgaria) is penalised after committing a foul.
  12. Attempt blocked. Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.
  13. Corner, Northern Ireland. Awarded by Andrea Christ.
  14. Attempt blocked. Niall McGinn (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Sponsored by Stuart Dallas.
  15. The attempt failed. Johnny Evans (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Prepared by Patrick McNair with a border in the middle of the box.
  16. Substitute, Northern Ireland. Kyle Lafferty replaces Josh Magennis.
  17. Corner, Northern Ireland. Awarded by Andrea Christ.
  18. Steven Davis (Northern Ireland) is penalised after committing a foul.
  19. Andrea Hristov (Bulgaria) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
  20. Attempt blocked. Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Sponsored by Steven Davis.


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