Relegation does not give Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill cause for concern

A dejected Northern Ireland captain, Steven Davis
A dejected Northern Ireland captain, Steven Davis

Northern Ireland are in danger of being relegated to League C of the UEFA Nations League after a 1-0 loss in Austria, but manager Michael O’Neill was not overly concerned.

West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic condemned O’Neill’s men to a second defeat in League B’s Group Three on Friday night in Vienna.

Arnautovic’s goal in the 71st minute gave the Austrian’s a 1-0 win, leaving Northern Ireland propping up the group ahead of Monday’s meeting with Bosnia in Sarajevo.

O’Neill said: “We’re obviously disappointed to lose a tough game, a physical game.

“We had to match Austria physically and I just felt on the night we got a foothold in the game, we had the better chances and we didn’t take them and then we were punished.

“It was a poor goal for us to lose, we missed two tackles in the middle of the pitch and then Arnautovic pulls on to the full-back area and is played through. It was a quality finish from a quality player, but then we hit the post after that.

“So yeah, we’re disappointed to the lose the game. It was a tough game, a tough test for us but all in all there’s no shame in coming here and losing the game.”

O’Neill admitted the result left his side in a relegation fight in the competition, but denied that should be a worry.

“There’s three teams in the group and we’re bottom, so yeah,” he said. “But what’s the significance of relegation in this competition?

“It means we play in League C when it comes around again in two years. That’s not really our concern to be honest.”