27th March – Today In Our Footballing History

27/03/1985 Palma Spain 0-0

Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, John O’Neill, John McClelland, Ian Stewart, Norman Whiteside (David McCreery), Paul Ramsey, Jimmy Quinn, Gerry Armstrong (Nigel Worthington), Billy Hamilton

The first time Spain had played in the Balearic islands was in 1985. The 38,000 capacity Luis Sitjar Stadium in Palma hosted the national team who where captained by Miguel Muñoz. Attending the match was the President of the Balearic Government Gabriel Cañellas, along with other political and sporting figures. The fans were given Majorcan flags when entering the ground and created an intimidating atmosphere for Northern Ireland.

Luis Sitjar Stadium was chosen as the Spanish believed the pitch was similar to the one they would face in Wales in a World Cup qualifier for Mexico 1986. Northern Ireland as opponents was also a chance to play a British team of similar stature and tactical play as Wales would be. In goal for the Spanish was Luis Arconada and for Northern Ireland was Gerry Armstrong who at the time was playing for Real Mallorca in the very stadium the match was taking place. Both players knew each other well from the infamous match in Valencia during the World Cup in Spain in 1982 when Northern Ireland defeated the hosts 1-0, the goal coming from Armstrong who scored past Arconada. Billy Bingham tactics had Armstrong placed as a defensively man marking Gordillo.

Spain dominated the match as expected but could not find a goal. The Spanish hit the woodwork including from Gallego (3 mins) and Victor (48 mins) on three occasions, and some ironically criticized the pitch for the Spanish failing to defeat Northern Ireland. However, the intention of the friendly and location in which it took place obviously backfired as Spain were defeated by Wales 3-0 in Cardiff a month later!

Author: Killultagh

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Northern Ireland Footballing Greats

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