Northern Ireland 0-1 Finland
Finland defender Sami Hyypiä celebrated his 50th international cap with the only goal of the game against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.
Despite having to change their line-up just before the kick-off when defender Janne Saarinen injured his knee in the warm-up to be replaced by Toni Kuivasto, Finland were the brighter of the two sides in the swirling fog of Belfast. That was demonstrated when Mika Vayrynen strode forward with confidence after five minutes and his 25-metre shot went narrowly wide of goalkeeper Maik Taylor's post.
Time to settle
Northern Ireland took time to settle, but Paul McVeigh hit a shot just wide of the post and David Healy then forced a marvellous save from Jussi Jääskelainen with a superb volley. Steve Lomas almost broke the deadlock in the 41st minute but his shot went wide.
Finland broke the deadlock in four minutes into the second half as Liverpool FC captain Hyypiä hooked the ball into the net after substitute Shefki Kuqi's powerful header was parried by Northern Ireland's substitute goalkeeper Roy Carroll following a Joonas Kolkka corner.
Kuqi then hit a 30-metre shot that went marginally wide, but the home side should have equalised on 72 minutes but McVeigh failed to get a clear touch on a Lomas free-kick and the danger was cleared. The Irish stepped up the pace and a header from subsitute Andy Kirk hit the post following a free-kick from Keith Gillespie.
No goals in six games
Then Steve Elliott played the ball across the face of the area but Aaron Hughes just failed to get a vital touch leaving the Irish without a goal in their last six games. Northern Ireland's next UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying game is at Armenia on 29 March while Finland travel to Italy on the same day.
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