Estonia 4-1 Northern Ireland

By Lyle JacksonBBC Sport NI
Estonia celebrated a 4-1 win over Northern Ireland in Tallinn
Estonia celebrated a 4-1 win over Northern Ireland in Tallinn

Northern Ireland's hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 finals were effectively ended by a nightmare defeat in Estonia.

Martin Vunk drilled a low shot in on 29 minutes and soon afterwards a blunder by goalkeeper Lee Camp saw Tarmo Vink's tame long-range effort make it 2-0.

NI got a lifeline before half-time when Raio Piroja headed an own goal.

But another NI howler, this time by defender Gareth McAuley, gifted Sergei Zenjov Estonia's third and Kaimar Saag made it 4-1 in stoppage time.

Estonia could have scored more as Northern Ireland's heads dropped and they played like a team that realised the game was up as far as qualification was concerned.

The result and performance will do nothing to ease the level of criticism that has been building on NI manager Nigel Worthington.

After starting the campaign with a win in Slovenia and draw at home to Italy, Northern Ireland's challenge faded and their only other Group C victory has been over the Faroe Islands in Belfast.

There had not been a decent stab at goal until Estonia took a 29th-minute lead through midfielder Vunk.

Dmitri Kruglov got the better of Chris Baird before sending the ball over from the left. McAuley's touch was ineffective and the ball fell for Vunk on the edge of the box and he drilled an accurate shot into the far corner.

That was bad enough, but worse was to follow as Camp's error meant Kink's ambitious effort from distance ended up in the NI net.

The Nottingham Forest goalkeeper appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball and when he tried to block it with his legs, he succeeded only in diverting it over the line.

Having given away that goal, the visitors benefited from a blunder by home skipper Piroja.

Defender McAuley got a flick on a Steven Davis free-kick and Piroja back-headed into his own net.

Northern Ireland started the second half brightly but then gave away another goal.

When Sander Puri's header came off a post, McAuley dwelt on the loose ball, instead of getting it clear, and Zenjov nipped in to rifle home from close range.

Estonia twisted the knife by scoring a fourth in time added on, substitute Saag blasting in from a tight angle.

Estonia: Pareiko, Jaager, Rahn, Piiroja, Klavan, Puri (Purje 63), Vunk, Vassiljev, Kink (Saag 88), Kruglov, Ahjupera (Zenjov 52).

Subs not used: Kotenko,Palatu,Stepanov,Teniste.

Northern Ireland: Camp, Hughes,Cathcart, Baird, McAuley, Clingan, Davis, Brunt, McCann, McGinn (McQuoid 65), Healy (Feeney 65).

Subs not used: Taylor,McGivern,Little,Carson,Gorman.

Att: 8,660

Referee: Daniel Stalhammar (Sweden).

Top Stories