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North's fate was sealed before kick-off

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Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce (centre) celebrates scoring his side's goal.

Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce (centre) celebrates scoring his side's goal.

PA

Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce (centre) celebrates scoring his side's goal.

A first Nations League win continued to elude Northern Ireland as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Romania hours after relegation from League B had been confirmed by events off the pitch.

Eric Bicfalvi struck in the 81st minute to cancel out Liam Boyce's goal and make it 10 games without a victory for Northern Ireland in a competition they will be happy to see the back of for the next two years.

When it does return in 2022, Northern Ireland will find themselves in League C, facing the likes of Azerbaijan, Kosovo, and Georgia, after UEFA announced in the hours before kick-off that Romania had been awarded three points for their cancelled match against Norway on Sunday.

That left Northern Ireland six points behind their opponents, the latest blow in a miserable international window which began with the end of their Euro 2020 hopes in defeat to Slovakia on Thursday.

Before kick-off Ian Baraclough tried to keep alive a glimmer of hope as he spoke of a possible appeal by Norway, who were deemed to have forfeited Sunday's game after a coronavirus case prevented them from travelling, but Bicfalvi's strike ensured any such appeal will be of no use to Northern Ireland now.

Relegation and the lower seeding that comes with it will complicate the picture for future qualifying campaigns, but the path followed by Scotland over the past two years offers a blueprint and after a miserable spell in League B it may do them some good if they can use it to build momentum.

Northern Ireland learned of UEFA's decision just as they were about to begin their final team meeting before heading to the stadium, though the verdict had been expected and made no change to their approach.

Baraclough made five changes, restoring Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Josh Magennis and Bailey Peacock-Farrell while handing a debut to Matty Kennedy in the absence of Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, George Saville, Jordan Thompson and Kyle Lafferty.


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