Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

What a fantastic night...and we were there to see mighty Russia humbled

Presseye Northern Ireland - 14th August 2013  Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans celebrate after defeating Russia in Wednesdays 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans celebrate after defeating Russia in Wednesdays 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park.

In years to come, everyone will want to claim they were at Windsor Park that night.

For the few lucky thousand members of the Green and White Army who were there on Wednesday, watching Northern Ireland humble the might of Russia has given them magical memories of one the team’s most memorable victories on home turf.

Windsor Park was packed to its 11,805 capacity for the shock 1-0 home win against Russia — handing manager Michael O’Neill his first victory.

And fans were also raising a few toasts to Russia manager Fabio Capello after his “it’s only Northern Ireland” last September before and after the corresponding away fixture in Moscow which Russia won 2-0. Newtownards supporter Andrew Murray (25) was among the thousands of fans still on a high yesterday after the sweetest of victories.

“To be honest, I was surprised,” he said.

“I wasn’t expecting much from it before I went. It was very well deserved, very tidy, very tight football.

“In the first half I thought that Russia wasn’t really in it and something could happen here. But after Paterson scored the goal, I still felt confident that they could hold on in the second half, and they did,” he said.

Keith Anderson (29), from south Belfast, couldn’t stop tweeting about the victory yesterday.

A fan since the age of eight, he said: “It really felt like the good old days again, when we beat Spain, Sweden and England. Don’t know how long it will last, though.

“The atmosphere was electric. After the first 15 minutes, I just got a good feeling about the game.”

Fellow season ticket holders, Belfast couple Ray Allen (40) and wife Heidi (42), had joked before the match just how much their beloved team would be beaten by. “I had been thinking it would be about 7-0 to Russia as I honestly thought we didn’t have a chance,” said Heidi.

“My husband had actually said at one point that he didn’t want to go, and then he turned round to me and said ‘forget I ever said that’. It was a great night and we’ll be there again, through good times and bad.”

Belfast man Ian McKinney (32) said that the win was long overdue.

“I just got this feeling that we were going to hold on. To be honest, the atmosphere around Windsor Park had got a bit flat and we certainly weren’t expecting the win,” he said.

Lifelong Green and White Army member and BBC broadcaster Alan Simpson was ecstatic at the victory — despite not being able to be there in person.

“I’m really pleased for Michael O’Neill, who has moulded the team and has deserved the patience of the fans,” he said.

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin tweeted her congratulations to manager O’Neill and his team.

“Well done & well overdue,” she said. And broadcaster Eamonn Holmes tweeted: “Yes, you are reading this correctly..... Northern Ireland 1 RUSSIA 0. Amazeballs!.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

Population: Northern Ireland 1.8m -- Russia 142m

Area: NI 14,000 sq km -- Russia 17 million sq km

Most famous people: George Best -- Joseph Stalin

Most famous drinks: Bushmills Whiskey -- Smirnoff Vodka

Bread: Soda farls -- blinis (little pancakes)

Local delicacies: Ulster Fry -- Russian caviar

Famous writers: Louis MacNeice and Seamus Heaney -- Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky

Music: The Undertones and Snow Patrol -- Sergey Rachmaninov and Boris Tchaikovsky

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