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Healy saves Northern Ireland against Azerbaijan

Wednesday 14 November 2012 23.45 CET
Azerbaijan's Ali Gokdemir looks to keep up with Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty

Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland are still without a win in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F after David Healy's last-gasp free-kick ensured it finished all square in Belfast.

The visitors made the perfect start when Rauf Aliyev's wonderful strike gave them the lead on five minutes. However, just as Berti Vogts's side seemed destined for only a second competitive away win, Healy struck with a low free-kick in added time.

Without a win in their opening three games in the section, both sides were looking to kick-start their qualifying campaigns. It was Azerbaijan who forged ahead when Aliyev unleashed an unstoppable strike from 25 metres which gave goalkeeper Roy Carroll no chance. The impressive point gained in Portugal last time out suddenly seemed a distant memory for the hosts.

Kyle Lafferty passed up a great opportunity to equalise when his poor touch allowed goalkeeper Salahat Agayev to smother the danger. Defender Craig Cathcart then headed wide and Daniel Lafferty, making only his second international appearance, squandered the final chance of the first half with a header over the crossbar.

Northern Ireland continued to push forward after the break but Cathcart's excellent chest control was not matched by a composed volley as another chance came and went for Michael O'Neill's men. They were almost made to rue their missed opportunities when Cihan Özkara raced clear but Carroll was alert to deny the 21-year-old forward.

Fulham FC's Chris Baird spurned two chances before Healy's low free-kick wrong-footed Agayev to earn Northern Ireland a second successive 1-1 draw. Next up for Azerbaijan is a trip to Luxembourg on 22 March 2013 while O'Neill's search for a first win as Northern Ireland manager continues a day later at home to Russia.

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