Belfast Telegraph

Monday 25 May 2015

Vlad all over as Russian bear is slain - Northern Ireland win 1-0

Fans celebrate a memorable night in Belfast, writes Joanne Fleming

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.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates 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 goal hero Martin Paterson celebrates after defeating Russia in Wednesdays 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Brian Little/ Presseye Northern Ireland v Russia Northern Ireland Niall McGinn and Russia Igor Denisov during Wednesday night's World Cup Qualfying Group F match at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland- 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers - Northern Ireland v Russia at Windsor Park in Belfast. Northern Ireland's Daniel Lafferty with Russia's Vladimir Bystrov.
Northern Ireland- 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers - Northern Ireland v Russia at Windsor Park in Belfast. Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson with Russia's Alexander Anukov.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 14th August 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Martin Paterson with Russia's Igor Akinfeev during Wednesdays 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park.
Roy Carroll - 8
Made smart decision to race off line early on to stop Dzagoev's progress and was also clever enough to release the ball before sliding over the 18-yard line. Didn't have a lot else to do
Aaron Hughes - 8
His long ball down the right wing began the move for Martin Paterson's goal and as usual he was unfussy in defence. His experience was vital in keeping the defence tight
Craig Cathcart - 9
Seemed unaffected by his late call into the team. Looked comfortable throughout and rose superbly to head the ball back across the box for the goal that was disallowed
Gareth McAuley - 9
Fancy pirouette 25 yards from his own goal had the fans off their seats, even though he then kicked the ball out of play. Handled 6ft 5 Russian sub Dzyuba with no problems in the second half
Daniel Lafferty - 8
Showed great alertness to take quick free kick that led to Jamie Ward hitting the post a couple of minutes before Northern Ireland scored. Grew stronger as the 90 minutes progressed
Niall McGinn - 8
Provided great delivery from right wing for Martin Paterson to head home two minutes before half-time. Was a threat throughout and looks to be coming of age as an international player
Shane Ferguson - 8
Impressive going forward and industrious when working the other way. Put in fantastic cross for the goal that was disallowed and delivery from the left was consistently good throughout
Steven Davis - 8
Able to find space to receive ball every time a team-mate was in trouble. Moved the ball well and kept trying to find the pass to get Northern Ireland on the attack. Win was first as captain
Oliver Norwood - 8
Got through amazing amount of work in midfield in a disciplined display that required him to do more without the ball than he was ever going to do with it. Long international career awaits
Jamie Ward - 8
Michael O'Neill rates the Derby County striker highly and last night he showed why. Was inches away from scoring his first international goal when hit post and lively going forward
Martin Paterson - 9
Probably his best international performance to date. Not only did he score goal and have another disallowed, he worked hard, was always available and never gave the defenders peace
Best of the bench: Corry Evans (for McGinn, 81 mins) - 6
Sent on to keep things tight in midfield and did exactly that. Will be hoping to nail down starting slot in future

It was a long and almost unbearable four minutes.

Amid the sea of green on Windsor Park's terraces, fans held their breath through injury time, hardly believing the likely final result: Northern Ireland 1, Russia 0

The nervous saw their fingernails bitten to the quick during the final tense moments — but plenty of more optimistic fans chanted confidently, as the strains of “Glory, Glory Northern Ireland” soared ever louder.

And when the whistle finally blew the jubilant scenes were reminiscent of the day David Healy ended Northern Ireland’s record 10-game, 1,298-minute goal drought in 2004 against Norway in a 4-1 friendly defeat.

Ecstatic fans jumped in their seats while the players hugged and applauded the fans who helped spur them on to an unlikely victory.

And the increasingly impatient fans had certainly waited a long time. It was Northern Ireland's first win since August 2011 and Michael O'Neill's first competitive win as Northern Ireland manager, in his 10th match.

But it was worth the wait, with fans taking to Twitter to express their delight that the Green and White Army had beaten Fabio Capello's men.

Daryl Haire wrote: “What a night at Windsor Park. That was a special place to be tonight.”

“Another great night at Windsor :-) Wish we could play the so called big teams all the time .... Support was fantastic,” wrote Stephen Finlay.

Stuart McKeown was equally ecstatic: “So thrilled about tonight's games. My favourite match I've been to. Fully deserved. Gareth McAuley was sensational. Absolute rock!”

Northern Ireland-born MP Kate Hoey was delighted at the result. “Great atmosphere at Windsor Park. Fans absolutely brilliant,” she said.

The DUP’s Jim Wells also took to Twitter. “It was an absolute privilege to see Northern Ireland put in the best performance I have seen in 30 years,” he wrote last night. Comedian Tim McGarry noted: “Population of Russia: 143 million. Population of NI: 1.8 million. Put that in your homophobic pipe and suck it. Great result.”

Player Shane Ferguson summed up what many seemed to be thinking.

“What a result beating Russia 1-0. Nights like this you never forget as a player. Unbelievable atmosphere tonight at Windsor,” he tweeted.

Northern Ireland clinched their remarkable first win of the World Cup qualifying campaign thanks to a Martin Paterson header when he guided in a perfect Niall McGinn cross just before half-time.

 

Victory ends a two-year drought

Northern Ireland fans are known for their loyalty in the toughest of circumstances.

And that strong sense of devotion has been sorely tested in the past.

But it has also been occasionally rewarded with some jaw-dropping surprises.

Last night's shock win over Russia ends a bleak period for fans and will be a welcome relief for former Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill, who took over in December 2011.

He has had to wait almost two years for a maiden victory.

It was all a far cry from being the side famous for defeating England in September 2005.

Then Lawrie Sanchez's Northern Ireland, ranked 116th in the world, savoured the sweetest of victories with David Healy's 74th minute winner. It followed shortly after another confidence boost — their first competitive victory in four years against Azerbaijan.

Almost a year later, on September 6, 2006, Northern Ireland defeated Spain 3-2 in a qualifier for Euro 2008, with Healy scoring a hat-trick. While Healy's winning goal against England was the most celebrated strike in recent years, by far the most important and famous of them all remains Gerry Armstrong's winner against Spain in their own backyard in the 1982 World Cup finals.

It sent Billy Bingham's side into the second round of the World Cup — where Billy Hamilton provided further memorable moments with a brace in a 2-2 draw against Austria.

A 4-1 defeat to France in the other second round game ended our progress, but those glory days have never been forgotten.

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