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UK News Desk

Northern Ireland off to perfect start

By Jack Wilkinson

@jacktwilkinson

Last Updated: 21/03/19 9:54pm

Niall McGinn celebrates opening the scoring for Northern Ireland against Estonia in the European Qualifier

Niall McGinn celebrates opening the scoring for Northern Ireland against Estonia in the European Qualifier

Northern Ireland kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Estonia at Windsor Park.

Niall McGinn’s crisp volley and Steven Davis’ penalty saw Michael O’Neill’s side home in the second half after they failed to convert their chances in a frustrating first period in Belfast, Paddy McNair guilty of missing a sitter.

Home form played an integral role in Northern Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2016 and that formula looks to hold the key in their bid for successive tournament appearances for the first time since 1986.

Northern Ireland’s first competitive victory since September 2017 leaves them level on points with early Group C leaders Holland ahead of Sunday’s clash with Belarus – live on Sky Sports Football – where six points can be secured from their opening two games.

Opta stats

  • Northern Ireland picked up their first win in nine competitive matches (D1 L7) since beating Czech Republic in September 2017.
  • Northern Ireland have now won their opening match in each of the last three European Championship qualifying campaigns.
  • Estonia have never kept a clean sheet against Northern Ireland in five previous meetings, failing to score themselves in three of those games. However, this was the first match they’d conceded more than once against Northern Ireland.
  • Niall McGinn’s goal was his first in 13 appearances for Northern Ireland in all competitions, since scoring against Ukraine in Euro 2016.
  • Ten of Steven Davis’ 12 goals for Northern Ireland have been scored in home games.

Full report to follow…

What’s next?

N Ireland vs Belarus

March 24, 2019, 7:15pm

Live on

Northern Ireland resume their European Qualifiers at home to Belarus on Sunday – live on Sky Sports Football & Main Event (7.45pm GMT). Estonia, meanwhile, travel to Gibraltar on Tuesday – live on Sky Sports Red Button (7.45pm GMT).

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