International Friendly: Cyprus 0 N Ireland 0

Pambos Christodoulou's time as Cyprus coach began with a 0-0 draw versus 10-man Northern Ireland as the hosts put domestic woes to one side.

The Cypriot top flight was thrown into disarray when last weekend's games were postponed after an explosive device was placed on a car belonging to referee Leontios Trattos.

But the hosts, playing in front of a sparse crowd in Nicosia, produced a spirited if unspectacular display in Christodoulou's first game in charge as Northern Ireland once again drew a blank on the road.

It has been eight years since they scored in a friendly away from home, and the visitors, weakened by the absence of several regulars, had precious few chances to end that run on Wednesday.

In fact, it was the home side who, having survived an early scare, enjoyed the better opportunities but they could not take advantage, even after Gareth McAuley's late dismissal.

It took until the 12th minute for either goalkeeper to be called into action, with Cyprus stopper Antonis Georgallides making a superb point-blank save from Martin Paterson's powerful header.

The away side were nearly caught out at the other end when Constantinos Makridis broke free inside the box to slide a shot past Alan Mannus, but Ryan McGivern was on hand to avert the danger.

And Mannus had to demonstrate a safe pair of hands to keep hold of Dimitris Christofi's header midway through the half.

Cyprus, ranked 122nd in the world and themselves without a goal in six matches heading into this one, threatened again eight minutes before half-time but Mannus made an excellent one-handed save from Christofi after the striker had sprung the offside trap.

Michael O'Neill's side, who were indebted to Mannus for another smart stop in the dying moments of the opening period, struggled to mount a meaningful response in the remainder of the first half as Cyprus continued to grow in confidence.

Kyle Lafferty, scorer of Northern Ireland's last goal in an away friendly against Finland in 2006, was introduced for the second half in place of Paterson, with Roy Carroll replacing the impressive Mannus in goal.

Good link-up play between Craig Cathcart and Niall McGinn handed Jamie Ward a sight of goal early in the second half, but he dragged his shot wide of the target.

The industrious Christofi was even more wayward when he skied a shot well over the bar from the edge of the box with 65 minutes gone in a passage of play that summed up the lack of quality on show.

West Brom defender McAuley saw red 14 minutes from time following a crude challenge on Christofi but Cyprus could not find a way through.

The draw extends the hosts' winless run to 11 matches, while O'Neill's men have not triumphed in six games since a shock victory over Russia.


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