Craig Cathcart accepted the blame for the calamitous second goal which sank Northern Ireland in a 2-1 UEFA Nations League loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina at Windsor Park.
The Watford defender went to head the ball back to Bailey Peacock-Farrell but got it wrong, allowing Elvis Saric to nip in and score.
“Obviously we’re really disappointed with the goals and I’ll take full responsibility for the second one,” Cathcart said.
“I maybe didn’t put enough on it and we are just so disappointed given the rest of the performance.
“How the goal came about is just one of those things in football. It won’t be the first or last mistake I make; it’s just part of the game.”
It was a miserable moment for Peacock-Farrell on his competitive debut.
“It is one of those,” the 21-year-old said. “The ball just didn’t skid through from Craig.
“It maybe didn’t have enough power on it and then it leaves the keeper in a tricky situation where if you go and slide out and gamble on it nine times out of 10 these strikers are very clever and they can leave a trailing leg and then all of a sudden a penalty could be given and we are maybe down to 10 men.
“Then there is pretty much no way we are getting back into the game. It’s one of those. Sometimes you have to hope it falls for you the right way and it didn’t today.”
Saric’s strike proved decisive in a game which saw Northern Ireland dominate but concede sloppy goals in either half without scoring their own until substitute Will Grigg struck in stoppage time.
“It was one of the most one-sided defeats I’ve ever played in. It was so frustrating coming off the pitch,” Cathcart added.
“It was one of he most complete performances that a Northern Ireland team has put in in my time.”
The game could have had a very different complexion had Northern Ireland been awarded a first minute penalty when George Saville went down under a challenge from Ervin Zukanovic.
Middlesbrough midfielder Saville was adamant he was fouled but suggested the referee did not want to award a penalty so early in the match.
“One hundred per cent,” he said when asked if it would be awarded later in the game. “It was pretty much the first thing that had happened in the game and looking at it back, it’s an easy decision.
“I asked the question but didn’t get a response (from the referee). Of course, you’re not going to get a response.
“He was under pressure obviously, and for me he’s made the wrong decision.”
Despite the frustration, Northern Ireland were not short of positives to take from the game given their performance – and the return of Grigg, who found the net on his first international appearance since November 2016.
“It was massive,” Grigg said of his goal. “I am a striker and want to score goals. Playing for your country is what you want to do and if I get a chance I feel I can score goals and fortunately I proved that tonight.”
The 27-year-old’s continued absence from the squad has brought questions about his commitment, but he said he had always wanted to resume his Northern Ireland career.
“It has been frustrating but people forget I was out for six or seven months and it took me a while to get back,” he said.
“I got myself fit and there have been a few occasions when I’ve been left out and a few occasions when I’ve had to stay at Wigan because we have had so many important games.
“Michael (O’Neill) has been asked the same question and there has never been a case of me not wanting to come.”
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