Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland ease past Estonia as Jones stars to help get Euro 2020 campaign off to victorious start

Northern Ireland 2-0 Estonia

Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 21: Steve Davis of Northern Ireland scores during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Estonia at Windsor Park on March 21, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis scores his side's second goal of the game from the penalty spot during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 21: Steve Davis of Northern Ireland celebrates with team mates after scoring during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Estonia at Windsor Park on March 21, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn scores in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Niall McGinn opened the scoring for Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland's George Saville rues a missed chance during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis and Estonia's Nikita Baranov in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis and Estonia's Nikita Baranov in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's George Saville and Estonia's Nikita Baranov in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis , Jonny Evans and Estonia's Henri Anier in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's George Saville and Estonia's Gert Kams in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's team in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Northern Ireland's George Saville and Estonia's Gert Kams in action during the Euro Qualifier at Windsor Park on March 21th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 21st March 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Northern Ireland fan Logan McCrubb ,8, from Antrim during Thursday night's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park,Belfast Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 21st March 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Northern Ireland James and Trevor Fleming from Ballyclare during Thursday night's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park,Belfast Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 21st March 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Northern Ireland Stephen, Sandra and Gordon Black from Cookstown during Thursday night's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park,Belfast Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Corry Evans before Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier against Estonia at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 21st March 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Northern Ireland Eddie King from Lisburn during Thursday night's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park,Belfast Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 21st March 2019-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Northern Ireland Cate and Justin Turner during Thursday night's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying match at the National Football Stadium, Windsor Park,Belfast Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland with Estonia during Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland with Estonia during Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier against Estonia at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart with Estonia's Madis Vihmann during Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st March 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair with Estonia's Joonas Tamm during Thursday nights UEFA Euro Qualifier at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 21-3-19 Northern Ireland v Estonia - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Estonia's Sergei Lepmets during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 21-3-19 Northern Ireland v Estonia - Euro 2020 Qualifier Estonia's Artur Pikk and Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 21-3-19 Northern Ireland v Estonia - Euro 2020 Qualifier Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Estonia's Mattias Kait during this evening's game at the National Stadium, Belfast. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland team group. Top row (left to right) Kyle Lafferty, Craig Cathcart, George Saville, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jonny Evans and Paddy McNair. Bottom row (left to right) Steven Davis, Jamal Lewis, Niall McGinn, Jordan Jones and Stuart Dallas during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
General view of the pitch ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill gestures on the touchline during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
Estonia's Gert Kams (left) and Northern Ireland's Jordan Jones battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying, Group C match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2019. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 21: Stuart Dallas of Northern Ireland takes on the Estonia defense during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Estonia at Windsor Park on March 21, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 21: Stuart Dallas of Northern Ireland clashes Henrik Ojamaa of Estonia with during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Estonia at Windsor Park on March 21, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 21: Michael O'Neill, Manager of Northern Ireland during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Estonia at Windsor Park on March 21, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland picked up their first competitive victory since September 2017 by easing past Estonia 2-0 at Windsor Park.

While Rangers-bound Jordan Jones starred, it was Niall McGinn and Steve Davis who provided the goals to get NI's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to a winning start and earn their first three points in nine competitive matches.

Both goals came in the second half as Northern Ireland deservedly struck to ease nerves after failing to score in eight of their previous 12 games. McGinn showed desire to smash home his fourth international goal while captain Davis stroked home from the penalty spot.

Northern Ireland had failed to make their sheer dominance show on the score-sheet before the break, some perhaps fearing the 2018 frustrations could continue. The game had been played almost exclusively inside the Estonian half but Paddy McNair and Craig Cathcart couldn't make the two best chances count.

How does it feel to score your first goal at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland? 🙌🏻 Niall McGinn is hoping there's more...

Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Thursday, March 21, 2019

McNair was first up when one of his dangerous runs from deep allowed him to get on the end of the starring Jordan Jones' cross but, from point-blank range, he headed the ball down into the ground and it bounced agonisingly over the bar.

Cathcart's chance was another header, this one from Niall McGinn's right-wing cross but, although his header looked goal-bound, it lacked the pace to beat Sergei Lepmets.

The deadlock was finally broken on 55 minutes and it came, with no surprise, from a typically dangerous Jones cross. It was taken down expertly by target-man Kyle Lafferty who did well to tee up McGinn, his shot blasting past a helpless goalkeeper as his desperation made sure Paddy McNair didn't beat him to the strike.

Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell had little to do, such was the dominance of his side's display but on the one occasion he was called into major action, he passed the test with flying colours. Shortly before Davis doubled the lead, Estonia substitute Gert Kams set star striker Henri Anier running clear but the Leeds stopper was out quickly to deny.

He was rewarded just three minutes later when midfield runner George Saville was hacked down with a late challenge in the box and Steven Davis smashed his penalty straight down the middle for his 12th international goal.

Northern Ireland will look to make it two wins from two when Belarus visit Belfast on Sunday (kick-off 7.45pm).

In Group C's other game, the Netherlands smashed Belarus 4-0 with Liverpool duo Virgil Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum on the score-sheet.

Here's the game as it happened:

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