09/11/1996 Nuremberg Germany 1-1 Gerry Taggart
Tommy Wright, Ian Nolan, Gerry Taggart, Colin Hill, Barry Hunter, Kevin Horlock, Steve Morrow, Steve Lomas, Iain Dowie (Phil Gray), Neil Lennon (Anton Rogan), Michael Hughes
Northern Ireland traveled to Nuremburg to play newly-crowned European champions Germany – many were predicting a tanking (even though we had a long unbeaten run against them and had drawn with them just before Euro 96) however, Tommy Wright played his best ever game in the Northern Ireland jersey with a series of first-class saves. Northern Ireland actually took the lead and managed to hold the European champions to a 1-1 draw on their home turf. After the match, with the players celebrating in front of the Northern Ireland traveling contingent, Barry Hunter cut in behind manager Bryan Hamilton being interviewed by Stephen Watson and shouted gleefully “What about Our Wee Country?!”.
We had flags and banners from Cookstown, Dungannon, Newcastle, Armagh, Bangor, Londonderry and even a Port Vale Union flag displayed! The Germans paraded the Euro 96 trophy before the game to the Three Lions song, which they seemed to have adopted as their anthem. This was their first home game since winning it. Drinking all day and with beer available in the stadium, (I wonder how many 1.F.C. Nuremberg ping glasses were pinched that night?), my memories of the match are pretty much a blur so you will have to make do with the excellent report in The Times which is reproduced over the page.
What I do remember is seeing John Taylor MP with Ards scarf on. (does he ever take it off?) Mr Paisley, well somebody in a Paisley mask, and of course the pandemonium that greeted Taggerts goal. People were jumping about, falling and getting stuck in between the rows of seats, hugging total strangers basically going mental. It lasted 90 seconds. I wonder if anybody had time to get a photo of the scoreboard? I didn’t have the heart to tell the fella in front of me who was still celebrating that the Germans had scored.
The second half seemed to go on for ever. One headbanger beside me was singing “Can we play you every week” and “Easy easy”, nobody joined in. The home fans were getting bored and started a Mexican wave, we were just watching the clock on the scoreboard. You knew it was going to be our night when Klinsmanns header came off both posts and into Tommy Wright’s arms. I think the Germans knew it too. Old favourite Anton Rogan came on with five minutes left and was cheered, it was that kind of night!
When the final whistle went, it was as if we had scored again, more pandemonium. We sung “Football’s coming home”, “Dambusters”, “You’ll never beat the Ulster”, “One Tommy Wright” and of course the anthem of the trip “Cheer up Berti Vogts”. The team and the staff came over and the match ball ended up in with us. Armenia and Ukraine were forgotten about and we stayed in the ground for about 20 minutes after the final whistle, singing and just trying to take in what we had just witnessed.
Author: Martin Lowry
09/11/2017 Belfast Switzerland 0-1
Michael McGovern, Conor McLaughlin, Gareth McAuley, Jonathan Evans, Chris Brunt, Steven Davis, Corry Evans (George Saville), Oliver Norwood, Josh Magennis, Stuart Dallas (Jamie Ward), Kyle Lafferty (Conor Washington)
Northern Ireland lost to Switzerland in controversial circumstances in the first leg of their 2018 World Cup play-off at Windsor Park.
Ricardo Rodriguez scored with a penalty just before the hour mark after Corry Evans was deemed to have handled inside the area.
Though that decision was harsh as the ball clearly struck the defender’s shoulder, the visitors were dominant throughout and might have won by a greater margin had they converted a series of other chances.
The result was a disappointment for Northern Ireland, who followed an impressive qualifying campaign with a below-par performance in their first major finals play-off.
Michael O’Neill’s side had finished second in Group C behind Germany. Six wins from their 10 matches was more than they had mustered in any previous World Cup qualifying campaign.
Switzerland led Group B throughout, having won nine fixtures in a row, but lost their last game 2-0 to Portugal to miss out on automatic qualification on goal difference.
This is the first time Northern Ireland have lost back-to-back home games since February 2012 (a run of three). Indeed, they have now conceded in consecutive home games for the first time since October 2015, following a run of eight clean sheets in nine games at Windsor Park. The hosts failed to register a single shot on target for the first time since facing Poland at Euro 2016. All three of Ricardo Rodriguez’s goals for Switzerland in this qualifying process have come away from home, making him the top Swiss away scorer in World Cup 2018 qualifying. Switzerland have now won 10 of their past 11 competitive games, with the exception being last month’s loss to Portugal which forced them into the play-off.
“The referee has no-one in his line of sight. Corry’s arm isn’t in an unnatural position, it’s by his side. The ball hits him on the back more than anything. I thought the referee had blown for a foul or an offside. Nobody had claimed for it. I’m staggered by the decision, staggered by the yellow card. It’s such a defining moment in the match. The opening tackle by Fabian Schar was borderline. I thought it was a red card. The referee hasn’t done us any favours.”
“We have to forget about the penalty. I thought the players’ reaction to it was very good. We played much better in the second half, the game was even. We are still in the tie. Maybe a referee will give us a decision in the second leg.
I’ll have to pick the players up. There’s anger in the dressing room. We’re going to have to find a way to get a goal back. Stuart Dallas’ injury is a blow. I thought the players who came on did well. We might look to freshen the team up on Sunday. We have to channel the anger.”
“It’s disgraceful. I clearly didn’t put my hand up. I’m gutted. It’s devastating.”
Colin Murray (Radio Presenter):
“Feel free to take the mic out of my hands if I overstep the mark in the next 20 minutes. We talked about history and occasion and how football can be a catalyst for change and for heroes. Yet here we are talking about referees. It’s the dark ages. Welcome to the dark ages.”
“The Republic of Ireland had Thierry Henry’s handball in 2009 in a play-off for the 2010 World Cup. It was such a baffling decision tonight. There is nobody in Wales, England or Scotland who thinks that was a penalty. Nobody in Switzerland thought it was a penalty. It was shocking. Here’s a clue: if the opposing team do not appeal for a penalty and you’re standing on the wrong side of the player, it’s probably not a penalty.”
“There’s no point reading out texts or tweets. There are no shades of grey with that decision.”
“It was a terrible decision. It hit him on the top of the shoulder at best. You have to gauge the reaction of the players. They didn’t think it was a penalty. The referee was awful through the whole game. He’s the worst referee I’ve seen in a long time. It did spoil the night. I was disappointed with the Northern Ireland performance. In a game of this stature, we didn’t perform. Switzerland were the better side by a mile. But if they didn’t get the penalty, we’d have played awfully and might have got away with a 0-0 draw.”