| 9.5°C Dublin

Evans: North 'gutted' by defeat to Romania

Northern Ireland left Bucharest "gutted and exhausted" after losing their 100 per cent Euro 2016 qualifying record to Romania.

That was the verdict of midfielder Corry Evans after two late goals from defender Paul Papp had undone his side's manful 74-minute rearguard.

The visitors were thoroughly outplayed during their 2-0 defeat at the Arena Nationala, unable to summon the counter-attacking verve that delivered memorable away wins over Hungary and Greece.

But, despite being penned in their own half for long periods, Michael O'Neill's side defended with gusto, led by overworked centre-halves Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes.

An unlikely draw was starting to become a realistic target when Papp rattled home from 10 yards to break the resistance, then doubled the tally with a neat far-post header to move his country top of the Group F table.

And the late double took its toll on Northern Ireland, who sit one point further back in second.

"Everybody in the dressing room was absolutely gutted and exhausted," said Evans. "We gave our all but it just wasn't good enough against the best team in the group.

"Yes, they put us under a lot of pressure and we were forced on the back foot for large parts of the match, but I honestly believed we were going to hold out for draw and a great point.

"All the players are shattered. It's terrible when you put so much effort in and don't come away with anything. We're all very disappointed. It's very hard to take but that's football."

Despite obvious frustration, Northern Ireland's prospects in Group F remain strong. Maximum points from the first three matches of the campaign still leaves them well ahead of schedule, while four of their remaining six matches are back in Belfast.