Belfast Telegraph

I owed boss Michael O'Neill a performance, says Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty

By Julian Taylor

Goal hero Kyle Lafferty admits it's finally payback time for manager Michael O'Neill after his ultra-dramatic night of late, late sorcery against Hungary in Budapest.

The Northern Ireland star emerged beaming and relieved in the glory of his Euro 2016 qualifying winner, in what was probably his finest hour in an international jersey.

Setting up the equaliser for Niall McGinn and netting the winner against the Magyars with just three minutes remaining heralded a famous victory for the visitors.

The forward failed to find the target in the last, disappointing, 2014 World Cup qualifiers. However his late, bundled intervention sealed a rare away win for O'Neill's men in their first competitive success since overcoming Slovenia in September 2010.

Now with 10 goals for his country, Fermanagh man Lafferty reflected on both a bruising and outstanding evening at the Groupama Arena, as the Norwich City player drove a late coach and horses through the ragged Hungarian ranks.

Said Lafferty: "I think in the last campaign I let myself down, and more importantly I let Michael down, and the squad and the fans.

"I know that my work rate will always be 110% and obviously my ability hopefully will take me further so.

"Thankfully we won against Hungary and I've got the winning goal so I'm happy."

Lafferty – like the rest of the Northern Ireland squad – knew the Hungarians would pose problems throughout. And he now believes the players are poised to press on in a 10-game qualifying campaign.

"Obviously we knew it was going to be hard coming here," he added. "They (Hungary) did well in the World Cup qualifiers so, we knew if we dug deep and we played the way we can do, we'd pick up points tonight, so thankfully we went on and won the game.

"Michael organised us well and at the end of the day we've got three points and we're sitting very nicely after the first game."

Meanwhile, team-mate Steven Davis believes Northern Ireland deserved their win under pressure from Attila Pinter's outfit, who enjoyed large swathes of possession at times.

Northern Ireland can now double the Group F points tally with their second game taking place at Windsor Park against minnows Faroe Islands next month.

"We caused them problems and I think we deserved that," said captain Davis.

"You could argue we created the best chances of the game.

"We got a lot of spurt from Kyle and Niall (McGinn) when he came on, but you really couldn't single out anyone in the team really. Everybody gave their all and that's what it's going to take if we're going to do anything in this group. "Of course we know we're not going to come away from home and dominate possession against quality sides."

The Southampton midfielder added: "Hungary are a good side and are ranked above us, but I thought we were really disciplined in our play and had to be patient at times and whenever we got a chance to play we put some nice patterns together.

"You could see that everybody was up for the game in our preparations at the stadium beforehand.

"It's nice for Michael (O'Neill) as well to get a result.

"We had that kind of ruthlessness in the final third which you need in games like this. But we're not going to get carried away at the moment."

Belfast Telegraph

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