Daniel Ballard put in another Man of the Match performance for Northern Ireland on Sunday, despite a narrow defeat to Austria.

Daniel Ballard preparing for a match with Northern Ireland (Photo via Northern Ireland on Twitter)
Daniel Ballard preparing for a match with Northern Ireland (Photo via Northern Ireland on Twitter)

Making another competitive start for his country on Sunday, Daniel Ballard lined up against Austria in Northern Ireland’s Nations League group game.

For 80 minutes, it went almost perfectly. Ballard made five clearances, blocked two shots, made three interceptions and two tackles without being dribbled past once. He was a rock at the back as the away side took the lead with 15 minutes to go.

The official Northern Ireland Twitter account was so impressed with the display they posted a tweet to recognise it.

Sadly, Austria scored an equaliser in the final 10 minutes. Louis Schaub turned home from close range to make it 1-1. He was seemingly in an offside position, but there was no VAR to overturn the decision.

Ian Baraclough made the probably ill-advised call to take Ballard off after that, and Austria went on to score again three minutes later and steal all the points.

The Belfast Telegraph gave Ballard a 9 rating for his performance, the highest on the team. They wrote: “Some big tackles and impressive defending. Classy performance and a player showing plenty of promise. The new Jonny Evans?”

Northern Ireland have one more fixture before the end of the international break, hosting Romania on Wednesday. It’s now a must-win game to have any chance of remaining in their current division in the Nations League.

Ballard will then return to his loan club Blackpool, where he’s just finished serving a red-card suspension. Despite that one disappointing moment picking up the red, the centre-back is also playing a starring role for the League One club so far.