Most Read Football

The Soccer Aid World XI celebrate their triumph1

World XI beat England in Soccer Aid

Usain Bolt's World XI beat England on penalties to win the annual Soccer Aid match after coming from 2-0 down in normal time at Stamford Bridge.

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Belarus 0-1 Northern Ireland: Paddy McNair's first goal maintains perfect start

Paddy McNair scores against Belarus
Paddy McNair scores against Belarus

Paddy McNair's first international goal saw Northern Ireland snatch a 1-0 win over Belarus and make it four wins out of four in Euro 2020 qualifying.

A late night in Borisov looked like ending in frustration for Michael O'Neill's men as they toiled in hot and humid conditions, but with four minutes left McNair found the breakthrough.

The Middlesbrough midfielder took the ball from Jordan Jones on the left, skipped over the challenge of Sergei Kisylak, and struck a low shot under the diving Aleksandr Gutor.

The goal sparked wild celebrations from the Northern Ireland players who have repeated the mantra of targeting 12 points from their opening four fixtures and can now celebrate achieving it.

With half the group games gone, they have given themselves every chance of qualifying for a second consecutive European finals.

The victory piles pressure on Holland, who may have two games in hand but will head to Germany in September nine points behind Northern Ireland, who are sitting pretty at the top of the group.

It was another game where Northern Ireland had to dig deep before finding a late winner - just as they did in the reverse fixture in March, and in Saturdays' 2-1 win over Estonia.

That match was turned by substitutes Conor Washington, Josh Magennis and Jones, who were all brought into the starting line up three days later.

Washington, in the shop window after being released by Sheffield United, threatened at the start of both halves.

In the fourth minute, he drove to the edge of the area before dragging a shot narrowly wide of the goal.

And at the start of the second half, his driven effort brought a first save of the night out of the Belarus goalkeeper.

In between Northern Ireland had struggled to threaten Gutor's goal, but the game would open up considerably in the second half as both sides made changes.

Stuart Dallas replaced Magennis and used his first touch to head clear Sergei Kisylak's free-kick from a dangerous position.

Michael O'Neill watches his Northern Ireland side in action
Michael O'Neill watches his Northern Ireland side in action

Belarus introduced Denis Laptev, who has six goals in 10 for Dinamo Brest, and Northern Ireland's defenders quickly converged on the 6ft 4in man to block a shot from the penalty spot.

Peacock-Farrell did well to turn away a low shot from Igor Stasevich after Kisylak rolled a free-kick into his path on the edge of the area, forcing the Leeds goalkeeper low down to his left.

Northern Ireland responded at the other end where a stinging effort from substitute George Saville led to something of a scramble.

Jones' cross rolled across the face of goal and the ball would not sit for Northern Ireland before Belarus got it behind for a corner.

Michael Smith was next to try but his left footed effort curled just wide.

Belarus hit back with a Yuri Kovalev driving towards the area before laying it off to Pavel Nekhaychik, whose shot went into the side-netting.

But with time ticking down, McNair made the decisive strike to leave the 660 travelling fans in raptures.

Northern Ireland fans in Belarus
Northern Ireland fans in Belarus

Opta facts

  • Belarus are the sixth nation to lose each of their first three meetings with Northern Ireland, after Turkey, Romania, Latvia, Malta, San Marino.
  • Northern Ireland have started a qualifying campaign for a major tournament (Euros and World Cup) with four straight wins for the very first time in the country's history.
  • Northern Ireland have won back-to-back away matches, this after having not so much as scored a goal in seven away outings before this (D3 L4).
  • Belarus have now lost their last eight qualification matches for major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), conceding 19 goals while scoring only three in this run.
  • Patrick McNair has scored his first ever goal for Northern Ireland in his 29th appearance for his national side.

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Most Read Football

The Soccer Aid World XI celebrate their triumph1

World XI beat England in Soccer Aid

Usain Bolt's World XI beat England on penalties to win the annual Soccer Aid match after coming from 2-0 down in normal time at Stamford Bridge.

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Paper Talk: No Rash decisions

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