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Slovakia 0-0 Northern Ireland: O’Neill’s men go 12 games unbeaten

Slovakia and Northern Ireland played out a 0-0 draw in Trnava as both sides completed their preparation for Euro 2016, but injuries marred a solid defensive performance by Michael O’Neill’s men.

Striker Kyle Lafferty and defender Craig Cathcart went off after picking up knocks, with Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley also on the receiving end of heavy Slovakia challenges.

Aaron Hughes made history when he became the first outfield player to reach 100 appearances for Northern Ireland after replacing Cathcart.

Slovakia’s Vladimir Weiss had the best chances of the game, twice missing the target from good positions, while Michael McGovern saved from Robert Mak and Matus Kozacik denied Conor Washington.

Both teams continue their excellent form thanks to the draw, with Northern Ireland now unbeaten in 12 matches, while Slovakia have not lost any of their last eight international fixtures.

Slovakia take on England, Russia and Wales in Group B at Euro 2016, while Northern Ireland have been drawn in Group C with Ukraine, Poland and world champions Germany.

Lafferty felt he should have had an early penalty when his shot was blocked by Peter Pekarik’s arm, but referee Radu Petrescu was unmoved.

Slovakia winger Weiss shot narrowly wide from a good opening after 14 minutes when Dusan Svento robbed Paddy McNair and pulled a low cross back to the edge of the area.

O’Neill was then dealt a blow when Watford defender Cathcart limped off, which allowed Hughes to come on and collect his landmark 100th cap.

Mak should have put Slovakia ahead when he broke through the offside trap, but McGovern was quickly off his line to make a fine save.

Northern Ireland were almost gifted a goal just before half-time when Kozacik spilled Chris Baird’s drilled free-kick, but the goalkeeper recovered before Steven Davis could tap in the rebound.

Patrik Hrosovsky carved the Northern Ireland back line open for Weiss shortly after the interval, but he missed again, lifting his shot over the onrushing McGovern and the crossbar.

There was another injury scare for the visitors when Lafferty went off after a picking up a knock, then his replacement Washington, who had scored in two of his three previous caps for Northern Ireland, cut inside and forced a good save from Kozacik.

Juraj Kucka mis-hit a shot wide after 67 minutes, with Jan Kozak’s side looking the more likely scorers, then Marek Hamsik just missed Pekarik’s excellent right-wing cross.

Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel almost scored a late own goal to hand Northern Ireland victory, but Kozacik made a reaction block to preserve his clean sheet as the match petered out.

Sat 4 Jun, 2016
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