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Northern Ireland beat Azerbaijan 4:0 in impressive form at Windsor Park

Northern Ireland take another step closer to qualifying for the World Cup 2018

By Adrian Rutherford at Windsor Park

Published 11/11/2016

Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt scores during this evening's game at The National Stadium Windsor Park Azerbaijan. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt scores during this evening's game at The National Stadium Windsor Park Azerbaijan. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt celebrates. Photographer - © William Cherry / Press Eye
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 11th November 2016 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Northern Irelands Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring. Photographer - © Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin celebrates his goal during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin scores his goal during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan World Cup 2018 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan World Cup 2018 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan World Cup 2018 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty scores during this evenings game at The National Stadium Windsor Park. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Azerbaijan during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Azerbaijan during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis with Azerbaijan's Arif Dashdemirov during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis with Azerbaijan's Emin Makhmudov during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty celebrates scoring against Azerbaijan during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson and Azerbaijan Maksim Medvedev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Azerbaijan Gara Garayev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Azerbaijan Gara Garayev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Azerbaijan Gara Garayev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley scores his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates his goal during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Azerbaijan Afran Ismayilov during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Azerbaijan Afran Ismayilov during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Azerbaijan Ramil Sheydayev during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin in action with Azerbaijan's Ruslan Gurbanov. Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Photographer - © Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty scores the opening goal against Azerbaijan during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley in action with Azerbaijan's Ramil Sheydaev. Photographer - © Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Azerbaijan Rahid Amirguliyev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Azerbaijan Badavi Guseynov during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 11-11-16 Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis and Azerbaijan Ramil Sheydayev during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt during this evenings game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland Shane Ferguson and Azerbaijan Kamran Agayev during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan players line up at the centre circle as the fans hold up cards to reveal a poppy as they mark Armistice Day during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan players line up at the centre circle as the fans hold up cards to reveal a poppy as they mark Armistice Day during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan players line up at the centre circle as the fans hold up cards to reveal a poppy as they mark Armistice Day during Friday nights World Cup Qualifier at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Photo by William Cherry
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. The teams line up at the start of the match. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Northern Ireland line up at the start of the match. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Wreath laying and one minutes silence at the start of the match in remembrance of Armistice day. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Wreath laying and one minutes silence at the start of the match in remembrance of Armistice day. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Wreath laying and one minutes silence at the start of the match in remembranceof Armistice day. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Wreath laying and one minutes silence at the start of the match in remembrance of Armistice day. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland Vs Azerbaijan at the National Stadium at Windsor Park. Wreath laying and one minutes silence at the start of the match in remembrance of Armistice day. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
Northern Ireland fans Simon and Davy McGrew George and Sophie McCrory from Omagh during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans Shauna and Cameron Jackson during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fan Dorothy Gibson from Lisburn during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans Heather, Dorothy, Mark, Raymond Gibson and Stephen Lockhart from Lisburn during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans Chris and Mervyn Mark from Hillsborough during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans George and Sophie McCrory from Omagh during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans Drydan, Ian and Dyyden Wilson from Newtownards during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Northern Ireland fans Naomi and Norman Fox from Magheralin at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for the match against Azerbaijan during Friday night's World Cup Qualifier.Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye

Northern Ireland edged another step closer to World Cup 2018 after a surprisingly comfortable victory over Azerbaijan.

They scored four times against the Eastern Europeans who, before this game, had not conceded a goal in qualifying.

Kyle Lafferty led the charge with his 20th international strike midway through the first half.

A thumping Gareth McAuley header - evoking memories of his goal against Ukraine at the Euros - sent the home side into a 2-0 half-time lead.

Conor McLaughlin headed number three in the second half, before man-of-the-match Chris Brunt added the fourth late on.

The jubilant GAWA sang “We’re going to top the group” and “You’re not very good” as the goals - and the rain - flowed.

It means that manager Michael O’Neill’s target of seven points from the opening four qualifying games has been achieved.

Northern Ireland now have a chance to round off a memorable 2016 when they face Croatia in an end-of-year friendly on Tuesday night.

The road to Russia resumes in the spring, with Northern Ireland hosting Norway on March 26.

Amid another frenzied atmosphere in Belfast, it was Lafferty who got the night up and running with a trademark finish.

The 29-year-old, Northern Ireland’s talisman during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, broke the deadlock in the 26th minute

He reacted sharply after a long throw from Josh Magennis, flicked on by Corry Evans, dropped invitingly.

Meeting it on the bounce, the striker crashed home a terrific finish from 10 yards to raise the noise level among the 18,000-plus crowd.

It’s now 20 goals in 58 appearances for the Fermanagh man, who struggles to get a game at club level.

The game was preceded by a minute’s silence, with fans forming a poppy mosaic in the stands.

Northern Ireland had gone close after 12 minutes when a cross from McLaughlin picked out Shane Ferguson at the back post. However, the full-back drove his shot into the side-netting.

Magennis also threatened, drawing a good save from the goalkeeper with a stinging strike from 10 yards.

The game was held up just past the quarter-hour after Brunt - who missed the Euros through injury - collided with Maksim Medvedev.

After several minutes’ treatment the pair returned - both sporting large white bandages around their heads.

Northern Ireland doubled their lead in the 39th minute.

King of Lyon Gareth McAuley rose to meet a terrific free-kick from Brunt, powering a thumping header into the roof of the net.

It brought back glorious memories of that goal in Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win against the Ukrainians in France this summer.

Azerbaijan had been caught cold by the pace and power of the home side.

They went close in the second half when Arif Dashdemirov turned and shot from the edge of the box, but his effort flashed just over.

Northern Ireland made the game safe with a third goal in the 65th minute.

A corner was aimed at the front post by Olly Norwood and McLaughlin guided his header into the top corner.

Brunt added number four in the 82nd minute.

His shot from outside the box goes through a lot of bodies and before finding the back of the net to complete a terrific night.

NORTHERN IRELAND: McGovern, McLaughlin, McAuley, J Evans, Brunt, C Evans, Norwood, Davis, Ferguson, Magennis, Lafferty

Subs: Carson, Mannus, Hodson, Boyce, McGinn, Grigg, McGivern, McNair, Hughes, Paton, Lund, Flanagan

AZERBAIJAN: K Agayev, Mirzabekov, Medvedev, Huzeynov, Dashdemirov, Garayev, Makhmudov, Amirguliyev, Ismayilov, Gurbanov, Sheydaev

Subs: Nazirov, S Agayev, Pashayev, Abdullayev, Eddy, Alaskarov, Yilmaz, Nazarov, Mammadov, Abisov, Guliyev, Ramazanov

Referee: Clement Turpin (France)

 

Belfast Telegraph

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