Sheffield Wednesday's Bailey Peacock-Farrell proves unbeatable in World Cup qualifiers for Northern Ireland
On Monday evening, Northern Ireland produced an impressive defensive display to hold Euro 2020 champions Italy to a 0-0 draw and end their home qualifying campaign without letting in a goal.
Of the four qualifying games played at Windsor Park, the Green and White army drew three games 0-0 while winning the other 1-0. That 1-0 win came on Friday evening as Northern Ireland defeated Lithuania.
Peacock-Farrell played a key part in Northern Ireland's impressive defensive record at home, playing every minute of all four games. In a 0-0 draw with Bulgaria earlier this year, he produced an outstanding last-minute save while in a game with Switzerland he saved a first-half penalty.
Against Italy, he made six saves to keep a clean sheet against the reigning European champions.
Away defeats to Bulgaria, Italy and Switzerland meant that Northern Ireland were unable to qualify for the 2022 World Cup ahead of the November international break.
Peacock-Farrell played every minute of the qualifying campaign for Northern Ireland while Leeds United's Stuart Dallas and Hull City's Josh Magennis both featured against Italy.
Dallas almost scored a shock goal for Northern Ireland with 81 minutes played as he was on the end of a well-worked counter attack but fired his shot just wide from the outside of the penalty area.
Leonardo Bonucci also cleared a shot from Conor Washingston off the line as Northern Ireland came close to an upset.
Manager Ian Baraclough revealed Gianluca Vialli compared Northern Ireland’s defensive performance to a “typical Italian masterclass” after they frustrated the European champions - in a result which now leaves Italy facing a play-off as Switzerland qualified as group winners.
Roberto Mancini’s side arrived at Windsor Park needing a victory to top Group C and secure a ticket to Qatar but could not find a way to score against Northern Ireland.
“I think the players have to take massive credit for taking on board what was thrown at them, not just the starting eleven but also the players coming off the bench,” said Baraclough, who spoke to Mancini’s assistant Vialli as they walked off the pitch.
“At the end, Gianluca Vialli had a few words and said that was a typical Italian masterclass defensive performance, so I’ll take that and the boys can be proud of that.
“To be compared to a performance they can normally churn out, you know you’re probably doing something right.”