Chris Baird played 75 minutes as Northern Ireland’s first match at a major competition for 30 years ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Poland.
The opening fixture of the UEFA European Championships Group C campaign was settled by Arkadiusz Milik, who scored the only goal of the contest at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice six minutes after the half interval.
Baird, operating in a midfield three deployed by Michael O’Neill, departed with just 15 minutes remaining to be replaced by former Derby County wideman Jamie Ward as Northern Ireland chased an equaliser.
It was the 34-year-old’s 79th cap for the Green and White Army, but one that will hold dear significance to him as the meeting also represented his first game at a major international competition.
Poland largely dominated proceedings from start to finish, but despite fashioning a number of openings, they were unable to seriously threaten Michael McGovern’s goal.
The goalkeeper made two routine saves in the first half, but was beaten by Milik on 51 minutes, who struck a left foot shot through the legs of a defender and into the back of the net.
The result saw Poland take charge of Group C ahead of Germany’s meeting with Ukraine, which will be contested in Lille.
It also ended the record-breaking 12-match unbeaten run that the Green and White Army had built up ahead of this summer's Finals in France.
Baird and Northern Ireland will take on Ukraine on Thursday 16 June – their next fixture in this summer’s tournament – before they end their Group C campaign with a meeting with Germany, the reigning World Champions on Tuesday 21 June.Tweets by @ dcfcofficial