Belfast Telegraph

It's unbelievable: Paddy McNair savours two-goal heroics for Northern Ireland in Prague

 

Paddy McNair scored twice for Northern Ireland in Prague.
Paddy McNair scored twice for Northern Ireland in Prague.
Czech mate: Jonny Evans (right) celebrates after scoring against the Czech Republic last night
Two-goal hero Paddy McNair
Striding ahead: Liam Boyce pushes on
Lethal touch: Jonny Evans pounces to slam in his goal

By Paul Ferguson in Prague

Jubilant Paddy McNair savoured being the two-goal hero in Prague last night as Northern Ireland won a breathless encounter to triumph 3-2 against the Czech Republic and record their first away friendly victory in 23 games.

Northern Ireland pulverised the Czechs during a frantic first half at Generali Arena with three impressive goals before the conquerors of England last Friday brought on their artillery and hit back with two goals in 90 seconds.

McNair, Northern Ireland's match winning star in Belarus last June, said: "It's unbelievable. That's 30 caps and three goals but someone was saying to me the other day I should probably have a few more goals so it's nice to have two more now.

"I think the performance was fantastic and the first 25 or 30 minutes we blew them away and definitely came away with what we deserved."

The Middlesbrough midfielder stroked home his first goal on 10 minutes and then finished with distinction five minutes before half-time after a sublime ball from skipper Steven Davis - on his 115th appearance for his country - sent him clear. Jonny Evans pounced in between McNair's double to net his second successive goal against the Czechs.

The home side brought on six players during the second half, and gave Northern Ireland a fright through goals from Vladimir Darida and Alex Kral.

McNair admitted: "The first goal got us off to a great start. It came at me quite fast and I just snatched at it in a way and I was lucky enough to get it into the bottom corner.

"The second one I had a lot of time to think about. I think I ran from the halfway line and I was just waiting for the keeper to commit himself and he did, so I took it around him and put it in the back of the net. I was very tired from running so far but it felt great."

The men in green had to defend an all-out assault from the Czechs during the second half, but they did it with tremendous fortitude.

After the disappointment of losing three late goals in Rotterdam last Thursday night, they were not about to endure another night of heartache.

"We knew they would come out at us in the second half and I thought we were quite comfortable," conceded 24-year-old McNair.

"But then they scored the two goals and they play quick balls and run after each other.

"It was a bit of a kick in the teeth at the time but the lads dug in well.

"Tom Flanagan came into the team and I thought he was brilliant, so full credit to him and the other lads who came in too."

McNair and his fellow Northern Ireland players will now go back to their clubs before regrouping for next month's Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Netherlands and Germany.

Automatic qualification is now highly unlikely but McNair is determined that Northern Ireland will finish on a high.

McNair added: "I'm still a bit gutted (about the Holland game). I think everyone is, especially after going 1-0 up after 75 minutes, but that's football sometimes.

"I think we can take a lot of confidence from it going into the game at Windsor and Germany after that.

"We can take the game to them in Belfast and see where it takes us and then when we go out to Germany, anything can happen."

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