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FOOTBALL: INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY N.IRELAND U 21's 0 GERMANY 1: Auer & out at Windsor.

Byline: ORLA BANNON

NORTHERN Ireland's battling U21s were sunk by a header from German striker Benjamin Auer in last night's low-key U21 friendly at Windsor Park.

Although Roy Millar's side had an encouraging first-half, they were outclassed by Germany's slick passing game after the break and lost out to Auer's 55th minute matchwinner.

While Sammy McIlroy experiments with some new talent in Cyprus tonight, so Roy Millar will have been pleased with debutants Gavin Melaugh, Pat McCourt and strikers Zico Black and Kevin Braniff.

The second-half goalie Alan Blayney also impressed as he staved off a string of German attacks.

Germany entered the game with just one capped player and their inexperience showed in a lacklustre first-half display.

But they upped the tempo after the break and went ahead in the 55th minute when Auer rose unmarked to head home Hitzlsperger's corner.

Northern Ireland struggled to contain the Germans as the match wore on, but were certainly the best team in the opening 45 minutes.

Goalscorer Auer almost gave the visitors a lead they scarcely deserved justbefore the interval but his header went just high.

Roy Millar introduced Alan Blayney in goals, Wayne Buchanan and Aidan McVeigh for the start of the second-half.

Northern Ireland's best chance of the second-half came via a lovely sweeping move but fullback Chris Baird's cross wasn't controlled at the near post by sub McVeigh.

NORTHERN IRELAND U21: Morris, Baird, Capaldi, Clyde, Simms, Melaugh, Close, McFlynn (capt), Braniff, Black, McCourt Subs: Blayney for Morris (HT), Buchanan for Simms (HT), McVeigh for Braniff (HT), Curran for Black (60), McCann for McCourt (63), Hunter for McFlynn (77)

GERMANY U21: Starke, Hinkel, Rau, Zepek, Franz, Balitsch, Mikolajczak, Preub, Aeur, Hitzlsperger, Tifffert Subs: Stark for Balitsch (63), Marx for Hitzlsperger (76) Referee: Douglas McDonald (Scotland).

CAPTION(S):

CLOSE ENCOUNTER: Tobias Rau is halted on his run down the line by Brian Close; MY BALL: Tony Capaldi clears from Christian Tiffert
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2002
Words:321
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