Sheffield Wednesday's Bailey Peacock-Farrell produces more penalty heroics for Northern Ireland

PENALTY SAVE: From Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Picture: PA Wire.PENALTY SAVE: From Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Picture: PA Wire.
PENALTY SAVE: From Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Picture: PA Wire.
Sheffield Wednesday's Bailey Peacock-Farrell saved his third consecutive penalty for club and country this season as he helped Northern Ireland earn a point in a 0-0 draw with Switzerland.

It was a largely uneventful World Cup qualifying match but that did not dampen the noise from the 15,660 supporters that made their way into Windsor Park in what was the biggest crowd at the stadium since the pandemic began.

With just over half an hour played, Michael Smith put his hands on the back of Ruben Vargas in the penalty area with the referee pointing to the spot as the ball drifted out of play.

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Haris Seferovic stepped up to take it but Peacock-Farrell picked the right side to make the save before the ball was scrambled away.

That save from the Owls goalkeeper came after he had stopped a penalty going in against Lithuania last week. Peacock-Farrell has certainly picked up a knack for saving penalties this year, as he has already prevented Rotherham United scoring from 12 yards in League One this season.

In total, he has saved three penalties in eight games which have helped the Owls enjoy a promising start to the league campaign and reignited Northern Ireland' s hopes of reaching the World Cup play-offs.

Northern Ireland were without a number of key players on Wednesday evening. Leeds United's Stuart Dallas and Jonny Evans were the two main absentees for manager Ian Barraclough while Corry Evans, Hull City's Josh Magennis and Liam Boyce also missed out.

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Middlesbrough's Paddy McNair was suspended after picking up a yellow card in last week's victory over Lithuania. The midfielder scored a penalty in that game but the ban meant he missed the chance to win his 50th cap in front of the Windsor Park faithful.

CHANCE: Shayne Lavery misses a golden opportunity to put Northern Ireland ahead. Picture: Getty Images.CHANCE: Shayne Lavery misses a golden opportunity to put Northern Ireland ahead. Picture: Getty Images.
CHANCE: Shayne Lavery misses a golden opportunity to put Northern Ireland ahead. Picture: Getty Images.

Thursday's 4-1 win over Lithuania bolstered Northern Ireland's hopes of reaching the play-offs for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Switzerland arrived in Belfast fresh from a goalless draw with Italy and remain in control of their own destiny.

Northern Ireland will likely need to win in Switzerland in the reverse fixture later this year to finish second behind current group leaders Italy.

There were some obvious omissions from the Swiss line-up with Granit Xhaka missing out after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. Former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri was also not in the matchday squad.

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It was the biggest crowd Northern Ireland had played in front at home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the fans produced an electric atmosphere, with the voltage dialed up following Peacock-Farrell's penalty save.

Loud boos echoed around the stadium following the award of the penalty. It wasn't the first time Northern Ireland had felt stung by a penalty decision against Switzerland, with a controversial Ricardo Rodriguez spot-kick proving to be the deciding goal when the sides met in a two-leg World Cup play-off in 2017.

Switzerland dominated the possession in the first half but did precious little with the ball. Barring the penalty, Shayne Lavery had the best opportunity of the game as he beautifully knocked ahead a long ball from Craig Cathcart to find himself in on goal but he couldn't adjust his feet before being forced slightly wide and missing the target with his shot.

Overall, it was an ill-contested fixture with five yellow cards handed out. Neither side were able to fashion any real openings in the second half with the final ball lacking at both ends. Northern Ireland failed to muster a shot on target while of Switzerland's three efforts on goal, only the penalty had the noisy home crowd watching nervously.

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Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell; Lewis, Brown, Cathcart, Ballard, Smith (Bradley 67); Thompson (Saville 74), Davis, McCann; Washington (Charles 68), Lavery (Jones 86). Unused subs: Carson, Hazard, Flanagan, McGinn, Lafferty, Ferguson, Whyte, McCalmont.

Switzerland: Sommer; Widmer, Elvedi, Akanji, Rodriguez; Freuler, Frei (Steffen 59), Zakaria; Fassnacht (Zuber 59), Vargas; Seferovic (Zeqiri 77). Unused subs: Mvogo, Kobel, Garcia, Sow, Lauper, Lotomba, Aebischer, Schar, Zesiger.

Referee: H Lechner (Austria).

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