A superb strike from substitute Karim Boudiaf meant Northern Ireland had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Qatar at Gresty Road on Sunday.
Michael O’Neill’s side had looked set to warm up for their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania with a win thanks to a goal early in the second half from Stuart Dallas.
The Brentford player was in the perfect place to side-foot home Niall McGinn’s right-wing cross that had initially been flicked on at the front post by Will Grigg.
Dallas nearly doubled his international tally soon afterwards, only for Mohammed Musa’s desperate sliding clearance to deny him tapping home Jamie Ward’s low ball from the right.
However, Boudiaf levelled things up after 70 minutes with a curling effort from long range.
The ball broke kindly to the Qatar player 20 yards out, allowing him to hit a first-time shot with his left foot that had enough height to beat substitute goalkeeper Michael McGovern’s outstretched hand before dipping into the net.
Northern Ireland had gone close to conceding just before their equaliser, McGovern having to go down low to his left after Abdelkarim Hassan had touched on an inswinging free-kick from the left touchline.
Jonny Evans had the best chance to grab a late winner, but the Manchester United defender was unable to get his header from a corner on target.
The result was hardly ideal for O’Neill’s squad ahead of their clash with Romania at Windsor Park on June 13. They currently sit one point behind their next opponents in the battle for top spot in Group F.
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