Published Wednesday, 14 November 2012
David Healy scores a late equaliser during the world cup qualifier in Belfast (© Pacemaker)
Michael O'Neill's hopes of reaching Brazil in 2014 are fading after the side only managed to take three points in four games in group F.
Wednesday night's disappointing home result against Azerbaijan came after last month's encouraging draw in Portugal.
Rauf Aliyev struck a sensational opener in the fifth minute for the visitors before the hosts, who sit 23 places above Azerbaijan in the FIFA world rankings, wasted a large number of good chances.
Kyle Lafferty, Craig Cathcart and Chris Baird all failed to equalise.
In the end, O'Neill played his final card by sending on 33-year-old Healy for Cathcart.
The late substitute drilled home a free-kick to score his 36th international goal, rescuing a dramatic point five minutes into added time. The Bury striker had not scored for Northern Ireland in over four years.
It's not good enough. We've drawn two games at home that we should have won. These are games we would expect to win but haven't done that.
After the game O'Neill admitted Healy remains an important figure.
"It's not just about tonight and his impact on the pitch, he's just a good player to have around the squad," he said.
"To have Healy around when the younger players come in is fantastic. He knows, realistically, that his impact for us now will be from the bench but it's great to have the option to throw him on.
"I'm delighted for him to get a goal because he's been a fantastic servant and however long he continues I know he has the personality to continue."
O'Neill had made clear a win was needed at Windsor Park, after a disappointing home draw against Luxembourg in September.
"I'm hugely disappointed not to win the game because we did everything in our power to do that," he said.
"But I can't fault the players for the effort and they kept going right to the end. We probably played a little bit desperately at times and even early on we chased the game a bit.
"The players never stopped believing and they got the very least they deserved. They created so many chances and in that it was very similar to the Luxembourg match, even more so than that."
Azerbaijan manager Berti Vogts said: "Before the game I would have been delighted with a draw, but now I am disappointed not to have won."
Northern Ireland will resume their World Cup qualifying campaign against Russia in March 2013.
© UTV News