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Dream debut for Paul Smyth in Northern Ireland win over South Korea

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

By Graeme Luney

Northern Ireland’s friendly with South Korea was drifting towards a 1-1 draw until striker Paul Smyth stole the headlines with a wonderful goal on his senior debut.

After replacing Jordan Jones in the 82nd minute the Queens Park Rangers frontman grabbed the winner four minutes later, becoming the first Northern Ireland player to score on his debut since George McCartney against Iceland in September, 2001.

Former Linfield favourite Smyth, who moved to the Championship side last summer, was called into the senior side from the Under-21 set-up this week but he will now be on cloud nine after his composed finish stunned an impressive South Korea side.

Chang-Hoon Kwon’s fourth international goal fired South Korea ahead in the seventh minute but Northern Ireland wiped out that advantage after a cleverly worked set piece led to an own goal from Minjae Kim the 21st minute.

In the second half a few deflected efforts alarmed the home supporters but Smyth had the final say, firing home to get Windsor Park bouncing again.

In front of the 18,103 crowd, Northern Ireland lived dangerously at times but the defence stood up when tested.

Goalkeeper Trevor Carson, at the age of 30, was finally handed his senior debut and Norwich left back Jamal Lewis also earned his first cap.

Korea Republic's Changhoon Kwon scores in action during the game at Windsor Park on March 24th 2018(Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Friendly fixtures often have low entertainment value but the first half served up drama with two goals and a midfield masterclass performed by the visitors with captain, Swansea midfielder Sungyueng Ki probing with clever passes.

South Korea were composed in possession and in the first few seconds Heungmin Son drilled a dangerous low cross along the six yard box.

The hosts didn’t heed the warning and in the seventh minute Dijon ace Chang-Hoon Kwon slotted the ball low past Carson after a sublime pass from Son.

Four minutes later Son turned Aaron Hughes inside out and stung the palms of Carson. Jamie Ward then had a goal disallowed for offside and on 18 minutes the injured Hughes was replaced by Conor McLauglin at right back.

The equaliser arrived in the 21st minute and it was an inspired move straight from the training ground. George Saville and Ward ran away from a free kick, Jordan Jones slid the ball to Ward who crossed into the danger area and Minjae Kim could only smash the ball into his own net.

Two minutes after the restart Josh Magennis’ shot was deflected over the top by keeper Seunggyu Kim.

But then Northern Ireland survived two scares. Jaesung Lee’s drive was deflected just wide of the upright and Carson made an important intervention after Jooho Park’s deflected strike. Another deflected effort from Lee dropped the wrong side of the woodwork as Northern Ireland struggled to contain the smart link up play.

After yet another crucial block, this time from Conor McLaughlin, Shinwook Kim saw his shot come to nothing.

Northern Ireland's Paul Smyth scores in action during the game at Windsor Park on March 24th 2018(Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)

Among the second half substitutes was former Linfield hero Smyth who replaced Jones in the 82nd minute to make his senior international bow.

Far from being a quiet introduction to the senior side, the Queens Park Rangers frontman scored on his debut with a sublime low finish.

Following on from his appearance for the Under-21s against Spain, Smyth rounded off an incredible week by performing instant heroics.

His contribution was nothing new to Linfield fans but the Green and White Army have a new chant.. ‘Paul Smyth’s on fire, your defence is terrified.’

N Ireland: Carson, McAuley, J Evans (Cathcart 68), Jones (Smyth 82), Lewis, C Evans (Boyce 62), Saville, Norwood (McNair 71), Hughes (McLauglin 18), Ward (Washington 62), Magennis. Subs (not used): McGovern, Ferguson, Hodson, Lavery, Hazard.

South Korea: Seunggyu Kim, Minjae Kim (Minwoo Kim 36), Jinsu Kim, Yong Lee, Hyunsoo Jang, Sungyueng Ki (Wooyoung Jung 68), Jooho Park (Changmin Lee 68), Changhoon Kwon (Heechan Hwang 62), Jaesung Lee, Heungmin Son (Kihun Yeom 75), Shinwook Kim. Subs (not used): Jinhyeon Kim, Hyeonwoo Jo, Jeongho Hong, Chulsoon Choi, Youngsun Yun, Jacheol Koo, Keunho Lee.

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