By Andy Hyslop
- Paddy McNair named in starting line-up
- Ex-United players Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Oliver Norwood also start game
Northern Ireland lost their twelve match unbeaten run as they went down 1-0 to Poland in their opening group game.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill named a starting line-up with a strong Manchester United connection. Paddy McNair started alongside former United players Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Oliver Norwood.
Northern Ireland looked from the kick-off that they would be happy to play out a 0-0 draw and get a point on the board from the first game.
Poland dominated the opening half as Ireland sat back and invited the Poles onto them.
The dangerman for Poland is always going to be Robert Lewandowski and Ireland made sure they had two or three players on him every time he got the ball.
Northern Ireland were operating with a lone striker in Kyle Lafferty and he had very little service throughout the game. Anytime the ball was played up to him, he was isolated from his team-mates.
Paddy McNair was operating in midfield for Ireland but failed to have an impact and was replaced at half-time with Stuart Dallas.
Poland took the lead just five minutes into the second-half through Arkadiusz Milik, who control the ball with his left foot before firing through the legs of Cathcart into the back of the net.
Conor Washington was introduced and almost had an immediate impact, the forward ran onto the ball after winning a header and was clean through on goal, only to denied by Poland goalkeeper Szczesny.
Ireland’s best opportunity came in the dying stages as Norwood played a free-kick into a free Steven Davis in the penalty area but the Southampton midfielder couldn’t apply the crucial touch.
The defeat leaves Ireland needing a result in their second group game against Ukraine before face World champions Germany in their final group game.