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Monday 19 November 2018

Dzeko's double sinks North hopes

ON THE DOUBLE: Bosnia’s Edin Dzeko (centre) battles
for the ball with Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis (left) and
Corry Evans during the Nations League match in Sarajevo. Photo: PA
ON THE DOUBLE: Bosnia’s Edin Dzeko (centre) battles for the ball with Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis (left) and Corry Evans during the Nations League match in Sarajevo. Photo: PA

Northern Ireland were once again shown the value of clinical finishing as Bosnia and Herzegovina captain Edin Dzeko condemned them to a third straight Nations League defeat in a match that saw them hit the post three times.

Dzeko scored in either half, on the ground where he began his professional career, but Northern Ireland will rue a shocking miss from Gavin Whyte and an early George Saville effort that came back off the frame of the goal.

The 2-0 defeat leaves Northern Ireland on the brink of relegation to League C, with their fate now out of their hands.

It was a sadly familiar tale for Michael O'Neill's men, who dominated in the reverse fixture at Windsor Park last month but were undone by defensive mistakes.

Things might have been different here if just one of Northern Ireland's three early chances had fallen to a striker, but instead Saville got all three.

There was just one minute on the clock when Steven Davis played him in on the left, but Saville's rising shot went narrowly over.

The pair linked up again in the 14th minute with Davis crossing from the right, but Saville could not make proper contact as his effort spun wide.

The best chance came after 20 minutes when Jamal Lewis picked out Saville from the left and his first-time shot beat Ibrahim Sehic only to come back off the post.

In between, Dzeko had hit a half-volley just over after controlling Miralem Pjanic's raking ball with his shoulder, and it was the Roma striker who would open the scoring in the 27th minute. Lewis slipped inside the area to gift possession to Edin Visca and he played in Dzeko to apply a calm finish which left Bailey Peacock-Farrell with no chance.

The North's second half profligacy was punished again on 73 minutes as Dzeko found himself in acres of space to collect Pjanic's cross and finish into the far corner of the net.

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