Manager Michael O'Neill apologised to Northern Ireland's fans after his side turned in a "pathetic" performance in a 3-2 defeat against lowly Luxembourg.

Northern Ireland had raised expectations with encouraging performances in each of their last two World Cup qualifiers - a 1-0 win over Russia and a near miss against Portugal last week - but saw any optimism evaporate at the Stade Josy Barthel.

Luxembourg, coming in with just three World Cup qualifying wins in their history and none since 1972, were well worth three points but had to wait until the 87th minute to secure them.

That was when Mathias Janisch prodded home in a packed box to render Martin Paterson's opener and Gareth McAuley's 82nd-minute equaliser irrelevant.

An impressive travelling contingent of 1,200 fans were on hand to witness the embarrassment and they were at the forefront of O'Neill's mind as he picked the bones from a woeful showing.

"I feel for the people who have travelled to watch that. It's not acceptable and not the level of performance I would expect from my team," he said.

"The players are pretty clear on my feelings. As a manager and a group of players we owe the fans an apology.

"Our supporters deserve a hell of a lot better than they got back."

"As a manager and a group of players we owe the fans an apology" - Michael O'Neill 

Invited to explain why Northern Ireland had fallen so badly short - in truth they might have conceded as many as three more goals as Luxembourg posed a constant threat - O'Neill was not short of reasons.

"Lack of energy, lack of desire to play, lack of intensity, lack of leadership. Take your pick," he offered.

"It was a really, really poor performance. The management of the game from start to finish was pathetic. We got what we deserved, Luxembourg were the better side. There was not a single positive out of that game."

The result leaves Northern Ireland with just six points from eight matches in Group F, with home draws against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan also proving a disappointment.

But O'Neill was clear that this was the worst display of the campaign.

"When we drew against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan I had a certain level of sympathy because I felt on the night we did a lot of positive things, but this was as poor a performance as I've ever been associated with," he said.

"If we are at it all of the basic ingredients for playing football are there and we've shown what we're capable of. But if we're not we have no right to think we're better than Luxembourg or Azerbaijan or anyone out there. That has been proven."