A LATE wonder goal from Niall McGinn was not enough for Northern Ireland as they were beaten 2-1 by the USA in a friendly in Belfast.
Goals from Gio Reyna and a penalty from Chelsea star Christian Pulisic were enough for the visitors at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough’s wait for a first win in ninety minutes goes on.
Baraclough made wholesale changes from Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Italy in their opening World Cup qualifier as he took charge for the tenth time.
Kyle Lafferty captained the team for the first time in his career and was presented with the first big chance of the game on 16 minutes.
The Kilmarnock man was played through on goal following a beautiful pass from George Saville but with just the keeper to beat, dragged his effort well wide.
Lafferty has now failed to score in his last 23 internationals- a run which stretches back to 2016.
It was the USA who took the lead on the half-hour mark as a short free-kick found Gio Reyna whose effort took a wicked deflection off Northern Ireland defender Ciaran Brown to wrongfoot Conor Hazard.
The home side responded well and a great save from Zack Steffen in the USA goal denied in-form Linfield striker Shayne Lavery as half-time approached.
The second half became a bit stop-an- start given the predictable number of substitutions during an international friendly.
On 59 minutes, the USA were awarded a penalty after the referee adjudged Daniel Ballard to have fouled the skillful Pulisic in the box.
Replays showed the NI man got a touch on the ball but Pulisic picked himself up and rolled the penalty down the middle of the goal to double the advantage.
Accrington striker Dion Charles came on for his debut and looked lively up front as he fired an effort straight at Steffen in the USA goal.
The USA looked more likely to score a third and Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard was called upon to deny Barnsley man Daryl Dike on two separate occasions.
On 88 minutes, Northern Ireland did manage to get on the scoresheet and what a goal it was from Niall McGinn.
What a belter! 😍— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 28, 2021
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scored this super strike against USA in their friendly clash today. pic.twitter.com/lfh1jg7hPD
The Aberdeen winger got on to a flick-on from Lafferty and rifled a right-foot volley past Steffen from a tight angle.
However, Northern Ireland could not find an equaliser as the clock ticked down.
Attention now turns quickly ahead as Northern Ireland resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a home game against Bulgaria on Wednesday night, kick-off 7.45pm.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Hazard, McLaughlin, Brown, Ballard (Smith), Ferguson (Lewis), Kennedy (McGinn), Saville (McCann), C Evans (McNair), Thompson, Lafferty, Lavery (Charles)
USA: Steffen, Dest (Reynolds), Long (Richards), Miazga, Robinson, Musah (Lletget), Ream, Acosta (De La Torre), Reyna (Aaronson), Siebatcheu (Dike), Pulisic