Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Chris Brunt reveals which Northern Ireland star wanted to snatch free-kick duty

 

Words by Paul Ferguson, Video by Gareth Hanna

Chris Brunt admitted he took a leaf out of his international captain's book to score a delightful free kick in Northern Ireland's outstanding 2-0 win over the Czech Republic.

Last Friday night in San Marino, skipper Steven Davis pulled rank with Josh Magennis, who was on a hat-trick, when Northern Ireland were awarded a 78th minute penalty.

Brunt took similar action with Ollie Norwood last night after the Fulham midfielder raced to get the ball after Corry Evans was fouled 25 yards from goal.

The 32-year-old stroked the ball low into the left hand corner of the net. West Brom star Brunt said: "I think once Corry (Evans) fouled on the edge of the box I fancied it, but Ollie (Norwood) got the ball before me, so I had to pull rank a little bit.

"But I always fancied it and I was always going that side as well and I also told Jonny (Evans) to go onto the end of the wall.

"So we had an extra body and as soon as I hit it I knew I hit it well and once it skipped up off the grass it did the trick and I was delighted to see it going in."

Brunt's goal was only his third for Northern Ireland - but importantly his second of this World Cup qualifying campaign.

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Get in: Chris Brunt scores

The Northern Ireland left back conceded: "I used to score a lot more goals when I was younger but you take or leave goals, it's not really my job to score them.

"However there's no better feeling when the ball hits the back of the net and it gave us that little bit of a cushion going in at half-time."

With the victory over the Czechs, who are now eliminated from World Cup qualification, Northern Ireland have made certain of finishing in at least second place in Group C.

Northern Ireland knew going into the game a draw would be enough to claim the runners-up spot, but despite withstanding a great deal of pressure, the players were always confident of securing the win - even without injured stars Gareth McAuley, Craig Cathcart, Liam Boyce, Jamie Ward and Paddy McNair.

Brunt admitted: "You couldn't ask for much more, it was always going to be a tough game, but obviously when Jonny (Evans) scored it was good to get the goal in the first half and going in 2-0 up at half-time it was great and you could see their heads dropping a little bit.

"For all the possession they had Michael (McGovern) didn't really have anything to do - so that speaks volumes how the lads defended in front of him. "I thought Jonny (Evans) and Aaron (Hughes) were brilliant - especially Aaron."

Northern Ireland are now likely to be just two games away from the World Cup finals - with the two legged play-offs taking place in November.

Brunt missed Euro 2016 through injury, so reaching Russia would be extra special for him.

"You come away for years with Northern Ireland and a lot of those times you go back depressed and a lot of us have seen those times.

"The younger lads who are in the squad, they are lucky because it wasn't always like this.

"So yeah if we can get to the World Cup that would be great," Brunt said.

"That's part of the reason after my injury that the lads made it a bit more appealing to come back and if things hadn't have been going that well it may not have been the case.

"But for a few of us now it's probably the last chance saloon for a tournament and obviously I didn't get to experience the last one so it would be great if that happens. It's not the end of the world if it doesn't, but we have given ourselves a chance."

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