'If it's bobbling on the edge of the box I'm hitting it' - Hearts defender Michael Smith reflects on stunning first goal for Northern Ireland against Germany

Versatile defender stunned hosts in Frankfurt with long-range howitzer but rues 'collapse' that led to 6-1 defeat

By Peter Wales
Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 12:12 pm
Michael Smith celebrates his goal with Craig Cathcart and Paddy McNair
Michael Smith celebrates his goal with Craig Cathcart and Paddy McNair

Hearts defender Michael Smith said he was "delighted" to get off the mark for Northern Ireland after hitting a stunning long-range goal against Germany, but admitted it wasn't a great performance from Michael O'Neill's side, who finished third in their Euro 2020 qualifying group and now face a play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina next spring.

Speaking after the game, the 31-year-old said: "I think it was a cross and someone's headed it out. I think someone - I think it was Paddy [McNair] shouting, 'Take a touch,' but no chance - if it's bobbling on the edge of the box, I'm hitting it.

"So luckily it nestled in the bottom corner and I was delighted with that. I don't score many goals so I didn't know really how to celebrate.

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"I was delighted to put us 1-0 up, and I thought we might have gone on from there and made it a tougher game but we collapsed a bit and let them have too much of the ball without laying a glove on them."

Smith's opener came after just seven minutes, but Germany equalised through Serge Gnabry a little over ten minutes later. Leon Goretzka put the Germans in front shortly before half time, and added a second on 73 minutes after Gnabry had completed his hat-trick with strikes just after the interval and on the hour mark.

Julian Brandt added a sixth in injury time as the Germans finished top of Group C, two points clear of the Netherlands.

Smith, winning his ninth cap for his country since making his debut against Slovenia in March 2016, continued: "The goal was probably the only positive on the night - for the rest of the game, they [Germany] pretty much controlled it.

"We had a few spells but at the end of the day it wasn't a great performance from us."

Northern Ireland now face a one-off play-off semi-final against Bosnia and Herzegovina in March next year, and Smith is expecting a tough task.

"We played them not so long ago, so we know what it's going to be like. It's a hostile crowd, they're a decent team so we have to prepare well for it and go there and win because it's a one-off game," he added.