NI draw in final Nations League group game after already getting relegated

NI boss Ian Baraclough had said the decision was out of his team's hands. Credit: Pacemaker

Northern Ireland have drawn 1-1 with Romania in their final Nations League group game at Windsor Park – after already being relegated.

Just hours before kick-off in Wednesday’s game, UEFA awarded Romania the points from their cancelled match against Norway.

Norway, who were told not to travel to Bucharest by their government after a positive test for coronavirus within their camp, were deemed to have forfeited Sunday’s game, with Romania awarded a 3-0 win.

The decision left Northern Ireland six points adrift at the foot of the standings and destined for League C.

Before kick-off in Belfast, manager Ian Baraclough suggested Northern Ireland were hoping for an appeal by Norway which, if his side could beat Romania, could yet save them from the drop.

The team found out about the decision just before leaving the hotel for the game, but Baraclough told Sky Sports: “Nothing changes in the way we go and attack the game.

“We want to finish the Nations League on a high results-wise.

“If there’s any sort of appeal by Norway, we put ourselves in a good position in case there is one. We want to go and win.

“The way the boys have been over the last few days, we deserve to win.”

However, at Windsor, a second-half goal from Liam Boyce wasn’t enough as Eric Bicfalvi found an equaliser for Romania in the 81st minute.

Liam Boyce scores for Northern Ireland against Romania in their final Nations League group game at Windsor Park. Credit: Presseye

That meant Northern Ireland ended the tournament as it began – with a 1-1 draw against Romania.

“We went with inexperience at the end and gave some people some game time and they will be so much better for it,” Baraclough said after the game.

“Romania came here fresh, they didn't play at the weekend and we had one or two tired legs at the end. That's no criticism, it’s been a tough 10 days.

“We’re just over two weeks away from the World Cup qualifying draw and that will get the juices flowing. People will be excited about it. ”

Nations League relegation marks a new low for the side in a competition they have never enjoyed, having only avoided the drop two years ago thanks to a reformatting of the leagues.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Brady was denied by the crossbar as their Nations League campaign ended with a whimper to leave manager Stephen Kenny still awaiting his first win.

On a night when victory would have secured their place in pot two for the forthcoming World Cup draw, they were unable to find the back of the net for a seventh successive match.

The Republic have now not scored in 11 hours of football - as they scrapped their way to an uneventful 0-0 draw with depleted Bulgaria in Dublin.