Paddy McNair scored twice as Northern Ireland's sublime first-half showing was enough to earn a thrilling 3-2 win over the Czech Republic on Monday.

Michael O'Neill's side suffered a disappointing Euro 2020 qualifying defeat to Netherlands on Thursday but bounced back in style with a superb opening 45 minutes.

McNair got them on their way with a fine finish in the ninth minute before Jonny Evans doubled the advantage midway through the opening period.

The impressive McNair scored a second five minutes prior to the break before the hosts set up a tense finale with two goals in as many minutes from Vladimir Darida and Alex Kral in the second half, but the away side saw out the win.

The visitors started with a spring in their step and powered into a ninth-minute lead.

Liam Boyce's pass from the left wing found McNair on the edge of the penalty area and the Middlesbrough midfielder took a touch past Ladislav Krejci before slotting into the bottom-right corner.

They deservedly doubled their advantage midway through the first half when Evans reacted quickly after a goalmouth scramble from a corner to scoop home his fourth international goal.

McNair then scored his second after 40 minutes, latching onto Steven Davis' throughball before rounding the onrushing Jiri Pavlenka and slotting into an empty net.

The hosts improved markedly after the restart and reduced the deficit with quick-fire goals in the 67th and 68th minutes.

First, Darida crashed an effort into the roof of the net from Zdenek Ondrasek's lay-off before Kral superbly whipped into the bottom corner from 18 yards after turning inside Craig Cathcart.

The resurgent hosts did most of the pressing in the closing stages – Ondrasek rightly seeing a goal ruled out in stoppage time after he had bundled the ball out of Michael McGovern's hands – but Northern Ireland ultimately held on for an impressive win on the road.

What does it mean? First-half blitz too much for hosts

O'Neill said this game could be good practice ahead of a potential Euro 2020 play-off and he will be delighted with the way his side went about their business inside the opening 45 minutes. He will be less pleased with the way they lost focus in the second half, allowing the Czech Republic to get back into the game courtesy of some sloppy defending. 

McNair makes his mark

After scarcely featuring for Middlesbrough last season, the 24-year-old is very much back in favour this campaign, starting every game for the Championship side. That is bearing fruit for his country, with the former Manchester United man scoring two fine goals in what was a superb display at the heart of the Northern Ireland midfield.

Simic run ragged by visitors

Making just his second appearance for his country, Stefan Simic endured a game to forget. He was consistently out of position during a torrid opening 45 minutes and suffered the ignominy of being hauled off at the break.

What's next?

The Czech Republic round off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with Group A games against Kosovo and Bulgaria next month, while Northern Ireland face a daunting double-header against Netherlands and Germany.

Ronald Koeman took a swipe at Northern Ireland's playing style after guiding a fast-finishing Netherlands to a come-from-behind 3-1 win in Euro 2020 qualifying in Rotterdam on Thursday.

Memphis Depay scored either side of an effort from Luuk de Jong in a chaotic final 10 minutes to overturn Josh Magennis' shock 75th-minute opener, the substitute nodding the visitors ahead with their sole attempt on target.

The hard-earned victory took Netherlands top of Group C and left third-placed Northern Ireland, who were limited to 23 per cent of possession, with a tough task going into their final two games.

It had been a backs-to-the-wall performance from Michael O'Neill's men until the late collapse, as they defended deep and employed time-wasting tactics.

"It is outrageous, the football they play, but it is allowed and they get the most out of their qualities," Koeman told NOS.

"I respect that, but it is terrible to watch."

Northern Ireland counterpart O'Neill argued the gulf in quality between the squads forced him to adopt a negative approach.

"They bring on players like [Donyell] Malen and [Donny] van de Beek, who has been courted by clubs all over Europe, and we brought on two lads who play in League One," he said.

"Hopefully people recognise that. It was a fantastic performance but ultimately one that was disappointing in the end."

The away side gained a foothold in the contest by preventing midfield fulcrum Frenkie de Jong from dictating play high up the pitch, though he set up Depay's second in stoppage time.

"Paddy [McNair] was given a job to get on top of Frenkie de Jong. For me, he's one of the best, certainly one of the best young midfielders in the world. And will probably become the best midfield player in the world in the not too distant future," said O'Neill.

"I thought we did fantastically well because we made him play his own half a lot, and that's what we wanted him to do. We wanted him to play in his own half, he tends to go deep.

"We thought we could have forced a little error out of him because he does take chances as well. We've seen that in some of his club games where he's perhaps taken a little bit more out of the ball if necessary.

"I felt that Paddy could possibly have the physical presence to deal with that. Very much our gameplan centered around trying to keep De Jong quiet."

Netherlands and Northern Ireland meet again at Windsor Park in November, before the latter travel to Germany for their final qualifying fixture.

Oranje have dates with Belarus and Estonia either side of their visit to Belfast on November 16.

Virgil van Dijk conceded nerves crept in when Netherlands were trailing Northern Ireland with 10 minutes to go, yet the Oranje captain felt his team's 3-1 victory was entirely deserved.

Netherlands moved top of Group C with their 17th successive victory at De Kuip, though their visitors looked like pulling off a heist in Rotterdam when substitute Josh Magennis climbed above Matthijs de Ligt to head home with 15 minutes remaining.

Yet Memphis Depay levelled five minutes later before Luuk de Jong poked Netherlands ahead in stoppage time and Depay added a late third to move Ronald Koeman's side top of Group C.

Netherlands, Germany and Northern Ireland are all on 12 points in the Euro 2020 qualifying group - yet the former two nations have a game in hand and are on course to secure the top two spots.

"We continued to search patiently," Van Dijk told NOS.

"Certainly in the second half we did better with pressure. You try to keep everyone calm because our chances do come.

"You will see it happen. I think the victory is justified. It was a pinch at the end."

Netherlands had just one shot on target in the first half and barely threatened Bailey Peacock-Farrell's goal before Magennis' opener, at which point Van Dijk became slightly concerned.

"You come back 1-0 [down] and the nerves creep into it, but we have responded well," Van Dijk added.

"We have the qualities to never give up, and moreover opponents can often no longer walk. Of course it wasn't our best game."

With a home game against Netherlands and a trip to Germany to come for Northern Ireland in November, their chances of reaching Euro 2020 via the group appear slim.

"We just said after the game that we shouldn't get the heads down," Magennis told Sky Sports.

"We put in incredible work rate off the ball. We knew how difficult it was going to be.

"We knew they would get chances, and unfortunately for us they took three of them tonight.

"It is a bitter pill to swallow."

Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay scored in stoppage time to move Netherlands top of Group C as Ronald Koeman's side came from behind to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Rotterdam.

The Oranje knew a win would lift them above both Germany and their opponents, yet they fell behind in the 75th minute when substitute Josh Magennis headed in Stuart Dallas' cross completely against the run of play.

However, Depay levelled 10 minutes from time and De Jong, brought on shortly after his team fell behind, prodded in on the line in the first minute of stoppage time after his initial effort had looped into the air.

Depay rolled in Netherlands' third - and his sixth of the campaign – to leave Northern Ireland with a huge task to claim a top-two finish with November fixtures against Germany and Ronald Koeman's side still to come.

 

Ronald Koeman warned his Netherlands players that Euro 2020 qualification rivals Northern Ireland are "fighting machines" and will "get you by the throat" if given the chance.

Netherlands are third in Group C, three points behind second-placed Northern Ireland but with a game in hand ahead of the sides' clash on Thursday.

Victory at Feyenoord Stadium would move Koeman's side level with Michael O'Neill's side as well as leaders Germany on 12 points.

But the former Southampton and Everton boss warned that beating Northern Ireland - who won four consecutive qualifying matches before their 2-0 defeat at home to Germany in September - would not come easily.

"They are fighting machines," Koeman told reporters of their opponents. "Perhaps they haven't got the structure or quality technically but it's very direct, direct confrontations.

"They are a team that can make the games difficult for any opponent and we have to see how we can find the solutions. If they can get at you, they will, and they will get you by the throat. You've got to be prepared for that.

"It can be that home and away there is a difference in their game. I think they had the idea to perhaps try to finish Germany off and, for an hour, they were able to live with them and had the better opportunities.

"But from the moment they went 1-0 down, you can see the spaces increase and the Germans took advantage."

Given defeat in Rotterdam would leave Netherlands six points behind Northern Ireland, Koeman admitted his side are under pressure to deliver a result before winning again in Belfast in November.

The Oranje lost 3-2 at home to Germany in their most recent qualifier on home turf in March, but Koeman backed the likes of Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong to cope with the high-stakes scenario.

"We still have to qualify," said Koeman. "Now we play both games against Northern Ireland for our ticket. It starts [on Thursday] and if we don't get the result we want, it will be very painful.

"There is always pressure for Holland. We think that we've always got to play everywhere, and we've got the quality for that. I think that this team is very hungry.

"Not many players have played in the big tournaments and everyone wants to be there but there is always the development of a team.

"These two games against Northern Ireland are really important. There is pressure but the players are used to that - they play for big clubs and they've got to win so it's no different to that."

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman has included Roma striker Justin Kluivert in a 30-man squad for their forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Netherlands, who sit third in Group C, host Northern Ireland in a crunch match on October 10 before travelling to Belarus three days later.

Northern Ireland and Germany are three points clear of Koeman's side, although they have both played a game more.

Twice-capped 20-year-old Kluivert, son of Dutch great Patrick Kluivert, has scored twice in his last three appearances for Roma. 

He was a late call-up in September after injury forced Steven Bergwijn out of the matches against Germany and Estonia.

Koeman's squad includes defender Virgil van Dijk, who was this week pipped by Lionel Messi to The Best FIFA Men's Player award, and Liverpool team mate Georginio Wijnaldum.

Matthijs de Ligt and Frankie de Jong, who featured in the FIFA FIFPro Men's World XI alongside Van Dijk, have also been named in the party.

 

Netherlands squad in full:

Marco Bizot (AZ), Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Kenneth Vermeer (Feyenoord), Jeroen Zoet (PSV); Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Daley Blind (Ajax), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Terence Kongolo (Huddersfield Town), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Inter); Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Davy Propper (Brighton and Hove Albion), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Kevin Strootman (Marseille), Tonny Vilhena (Krasnodar), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Ryan Babel (Galatasaray), Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Steven Bergwijn (PSV), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Justin Kluivert (Roma), Donyell Malen (PSV), Quincy Promes (Ajax), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

Germany head coach Joachim Low was relieved to claim a 2-0 win over a "very difficult" Northern Ireland in Euro 2020 qualifying at Windsor Park.

The 2014 World Cup winners were made to work hard for the three points in Monday's Group C qualifier, with second-half goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry proving the difference.

Conor Washington missed good opportunities for Northern Ireland as the hosts caused real difficulty against a Germany defence containing the relatively inexperienced Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann.

Low was impressed with Northern Ireland's performance and was happy to see the way his players adapted their performance to nullify the threat.

"It was a very difficult 90 minutes against a Northern Ireland team that played very attacking football," he told a news conference. 

"In the first half, it was very difficult for us because we were pressed very hard. We improved in the second half but it was a very difficult game and we're pleased to have won the match.

"It's a team that hasn't played together and they must learn to play themselves into form and get to know each other's style. We'll be looking at each stage of our game as we move forward.

"They tried to break up our play and they found gaps, especially in the first half. After half-time, Northern Ireland played with more tempo and speed but we responded. In the first half, we gave them too much room. They're strong in the air and we have to adjust our game to this style of play.

"I think we have good potential for the future and it's about working with this team to bring them through."

Julian Brandt saw improvement on Germany's 4-2 loss to Netherlands last Friday but also accepted there is room for improvement.

"We have some problems to explore," said the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.

"We played better than on Friday, but not everything was perfect going forward, especially with that final pass. That improved in the second half and we could have scored a couple more.

"Some things can be improved – being more clinical is one of those."

Germany are level with Northern Ireland on 12 points at the top of Group C, three points above Netherlands, who have a game in hand.

Low's Germany face Estonia in their next qualifier in October.

Michael O'Neill praised his players for a "magnificent effort" against Germany but accepted Northern Ireland will see their 2-0 defeat as a missed opportunity.

Joachim Low's side moved level on 12 points with Northern Ireland in Euro 2020 qualifying Group C on Monday thanks to second-half goals from Marcel Halstenberg and Serge Gnabry.

The home side missed good chances through Conor Washington at Windsor Park until Halstenberg's superb strike three minutes into the second half broke their resistance, with Gnabry adding a second deep into injury time.

O'Neill could not fault the spirit of his players but was frustrated they did not make the most of their chances.

"They gave everything they had," he told Sky Sports. "In the first half they were magnificent, should have been ahead, and when we reflect on the game it was a missed opportunity.

"We were punished at the beginning of the second half. Maybe Germany lifted a gear as well and it's a magnificent goal from the full-back. To be fair to the lads, they came again, we created a couple of chances, but it wasn't to be.

"We managed to stop them building the game and got joy off pressing and winning the ball higher up the pitch. It's very difficult to do that against this level of opposition. I think they had words in their own dressing room at half-time and they have intelligent game players.

"It's a massive jump for a lot of our players to play at this level. I'm proud of what they gave. We have to give a level of performance against the Netherlands and Germany now and, if we get the chance to go ahead, we have to take it."

Northern Ireland face Netherlands in Rotterdam in their next qualifier on October 10.

A fine strike from Marcel Halstenberg ended Northern Ireland's spirited resistance and helped Germany to a much-needed 2-0 win in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday.

Having been beaten 4-2 at home by Netherlands last Friday, another defeat at Windsor Park would have left Joachim Low's side six points behind Northern Ireland at the top of Group C after five matches.

The 2014 World Cup winners were frustrated in the first half as Michael O'Neill's side caused real problems with some high pressing and strong defending, while Manuel Neuer had to make an important save from Conor Washington.

However, Halstenberg's first international goal three minutes into the second half and Serge Gnabry's late strike made the difference, as Germany breathed new life into their qualification campaign.

There have been calls for Neuer to be dropped for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the Bayern Munich keeper justified his place in the team with a fine one-on-one save from Washington.

Germany were being pressed into mistakes in the early stages but began to recover their poise, and Northern Ireland were twice fortunate to escape shouts for handball in the box from Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart.

Jonathan Tah - on for the injured Matthias Ginter - did enough to block when it seemed certain Washington would turn a loose ball in, and Bailey Peacock-Farrell reacted moments later to deny Timo Werner from six yards.

Peacock-Farrell saved brilliantly to deny Lukas Klostermann as Germany started the second half well, but the breakthrough came barely a minute later, as Halstenberg's brilliant half-volley from 18 yards out left the Burnley keeper with no chance.

Werner was denied again by Peacock-Farrell and, as a tiring Northern Ireland made a late push, Gnabry ran onto Kai Havertz's throughball and drilled a clever reverse finish past Peacock-Farrell from his left-hand post.

What does it mean? Group C scrap is hotting up

Germany really needed a result here after their defeat to Netherlands last time out, and their win puts them level with Northern Ireland on 12 points at the top of the table.

Ronald Koeman's side are three points further back but, with a game in hand to come next month, they are very much part of this intriguing three-way battle.

Fantastic Peacock-Farrell

He might not have played a minute for Burnley, but the 22-year-old was exemplary for his country and kept them in the game as Germany threatened to take control.

Werner invisible

Werner had the worst passing accuracy on his team, underlining how ineffective he was in linking the attack, and he failed to make the most of a clear-cut opening before the break.

What's next?

Germany host a friendly against Argentina on October 9 before their next Euro 2020 qualifier away to Estonia four days later. Next up for Northern Ireland is a potentially pivotal trip to Netherlands on October 10.

Ilkay Gundogan will miss Germany's Euro 2020 qualifier against Northern Ireland due to illness.

The Manchester City midfielder will return to his club rather than remaining in Belfast with the Germany squad, who take on the Euro 2020 qualifying Group C leaders on Monday.

Germany revealed Gundogan was suffering with a cold via Twitter, signing off the post with the line: "Get well soon, Ilkay!"

Gundogan came on as a second-half substitute for Germany in their 4-2 home loss to Netherlands on Friday, a result that leaves them three points behind their next opponents in the table.

His condition will be monitored by City, who travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City in Premier League action next Saturday.

The 28-year-old has featured in all four league matches for Pep Guardiola's side this season, starting in the 2-2 home draw with Tottenham and the 3-1 away triumph at Bournemouth.

Northern Ireland prepared for their Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany with a fifth straight win as Kevin Malget's own goal gifted them a 1-0 friendly victory over Luxembourg.

Ahead of Monday's meeting with the 2014 World Cup winners, Michael O'Neill made eight changes for Thursday's friendly in Belfast.

A lack of cohesion in Northern Ireland's play was evident in a first half that Luxembourg dominated, though Bailey Peacock-Farrell was not tested before Malget's calamitous mistake put the hosts ahead.

O'Neill took the chance to blood more of Northern Ireland's youngsters in the second half, as his side comfortably maintained their winning run.

Maurice Deville should have capped a well-crafted Luxembourg attack off in the 20th minute, but failed to keep his close-range header down.

Unfortunately for Luxembourg, Malget had no such issues at the other end eight minutes before half-time, when the defender headed George Saville's wayward effort into his own net.

Jordan Thompson and Gavin Whyte both wanted penalties in quick succession shortly after the hour, but their appeals fell on deaf ears.

Thompson squandered a fine chance to put the game to bed with 16 minutes remaining, though his failure to drill home Shayne Lavery's cut-back ultimately mattered little.

 

What does it mean? O'Neill learns little ahead of Germany clash

Northern Ireland lead the way in qualifying Group C, with four wins from four, though Germany also have a perfect record from their three outings.

However, O'Neill will hardly have learned much from Thursday's victory, with his focus seemingly on utilising Northern Ireland's back-up players, though they will need to be much more potent going forward if they are to trouble Germany's defence.

Saville gets his reward

Middlesbrough's Saville is yet to score his first international goal, but his effort in keeping the home side's attack alive led to Malget's error, and the midfielder's work rate and industry in the centre of the park will be key to Northern Ireland's chances against Germany.

A miserable night for Malget

There should have been little danger from Saville's cross, but Malget got his attempted clearance all wrong. It was a dreadful, bizarre error, and one the defender did not get chance to atone for as he was taken off at half-time.

What's next?

Heavyweights Germany visit Windsor Park on Monday, while Luxembourg continue their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against Serbia the following day.

Luca Waldschmidt has won a maiden senior call-up for Germany's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Netherlands and Northern Ireland, although Paris Saint-Germain winger Julian Draxler is an injury absentee.

Waldschmidt won the Golden Boot as the Germany Under-21 team finished runners-up to Spain at the European Championship in June, on the back of scoring nine Bundesliga goals for Freiburg in 2018-19.

The 22-year-old has flown out of the blocks this term, netting two in two top-flight appearances.

Draxler started PSG's first two Ligue 1 games this season but missed the 4-0 win over Toulouse with a foot injury that rules him out – further depleting Joachim Low's wide attacking options following Leroy Sane's knee ligament injury.

Low has selected Borussia Dortmund duo Marco Reus and Julian Brandt, Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry and RB Leipzig's Timo Werner as his other forward options.

There is a recall for Juventus defensive midfielder Emre Can ahead of the keenly anticipated clash with Netherlands.

Ronald Koeman's men progressed to the Nations League Finals at Germany's expense thanks to a resounding 3-0 victory in Amsterdam last October.

Die Mannschaft gained revenge in a thrilling 3-2 win back at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in March to take some early initiative in Group C.

Northern Ireland are top of the standings with four wins from four, while Germany also boast a 100 per cent record and have a game in hand.

 

Germany squad in full:

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Bernd Leno (Arsenal); Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig), Niklas Stark (Hertha), Matthias Ginter (Gladbach), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), Jonathan Tah (Leverkusen), Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Nico Schulz (Dortmund); Emre Can (Juventus), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Kai Havertz (Leverkusen), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid); Julian Brandt (Dortmund), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Dortmund), Luca Waldschmidt (Freiburg), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)

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