Friday 18 October 2019

Magennis double gives Northern Ireland third straight win

Estonia 1 Northern Ireland 2

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates. Photo: Reuters
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates. Photo: Reuters
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis scores. Photo: PA

Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifying hopes enjoyed a huge boost as substitute Josh Magennis scored twice in four minutes to snatch victory in Estonia.

Konstantin Vassiljev's 25th-minute free-kick looked like being the difference but Magennis turned it around in Tallinn in the final 15 minutes.

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Both goals came via the slightest of touches, the first following a shot by Conor Washington and the second just enough to divert Jordan Jones' cross into the net, but both could have a major impact for Northern Ireland.

Defeat here would have left their Euro 2020 hopes hanging by a thread with home and away games against Holland and Germany to come later in the year, but victory keeps them top of the group with a maximum haul of nine points ahead of Tuesday's trip to Belarus.

It was a dramatic end to a game which threatened to end in frustration, with Michael O'Neill's men showing for too long why they came into the night without an away goal in seven outings.

Though they bossed possession early on, chances were few and far between and once Vassiljev, their tormentor in a World Cup qualifier eight years ago, had punished a mistake by Stuart Dallas with a low, bending free-kick around the wall, Northern Ireland looked panicked as they gave the ball away. Estonia had the ball in the net again six minutes before the break but it was ruled out by referee Fabio Verissimo, perhaps generously as goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell appeared to run into Rauno Sappinen before Madis Vihmann headed in.

At the other end Gavin Whyte, making his first competitive start, sent in a fine cross but Liam Boyce could not get the direction on his glancing header and Estonia ended the half on top, with Vassiljev scuffing a shot wide when left virtually unmarked inside the area.

O'Neill sent on Washington for Boyce at half-time to try to find a spark, but Northern Ireland lacked composure and were almost punished as Vassiljev sent a dipping shot on to the crossbar.

Northern Ireland soon began to stir and Dallas cut in from the left and picked out George Saville, who poked the ball goalwards to bring a first save of the night from Sergei Lepmets.

Peacock-Farrell had to save low from Vlasiy Sinyavskiy as Estonia looked to hit their opponents on the counter-attack, but the flow of traffic was now firmly in Northern Ireland's favour. They got their equaliser in the 77th minute when Washington cut in from the left side and was able to run straight to the centre of the goal before clipping a shot over Lepmets, which diverted off Magennis to find the net.

And three minutes later the away side were ahead as Magennis got a deft touch to Jones' cross for the ball to trickle over the line.

There was a late scare as Dimitrijev headed just wide before Jones went close to adding a third at the other end.

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