Jonny Evans hailed Northern Ireland’s team ethic after they battled to a point against the Czech Republic in their World Cup qualifying opener.
The West Brom defender was one of the star performers in a fine defensive display in Prague, with his side holding out for a goalless draw.
But Evans was quick to emphasise that hard work throughout Michael O’Neill’s team had contributed to a clean sheet.
“It’s a team effort, right from the front we’re all working our socks off,” he told Sky Sports. “I think you could see that.
“The effort the lads put in, we knew we’d have to do that. It’s part and parcel of the game and we know it’s a big asset in our game that all the lads work really hard.
“Obviously, as a defender I’ll get credit when we keep a clean sheet, but I’d still take a goal any day.”
And though the visitors did have opportunities to steal a goal on the counter attack, Evans was happy to settle for a point.
“It’s always important to take something from your first game,” he added.
“Obviously it would have been nice to get the win, but we’ll analyse the game and see that it probably was a good point in the end.
“The Czechs are a good side, along with Germany, and Norway on the up as well. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us, but we’re happy with a point and we’ll take that into the next game hopefully.”
O’Neill, though, was somewhat rueful that his players had not been able to capitalise on the flaws in the Czechs’ game.
“We worked very hard on that [counter attacks] this week,” he told Sky Sports. “We watched Czech Republic in the Euros, and how they lost goals.
“It was difficult to judge it because there’s a new coach who possibly could have approached it in a different way, but he didn’t and we felt that if we could get pressure on the ball at the right times, we would have opportunities – and we did do that.
“The disappointing thing is that our final ball, our choice of pass, our run wasn’t as good as what it could have been. Subsequently, we never made the most of that.”
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