Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland U21s beat Spain's La Liga stars

Spain U21s 1-2 Northern Ireland U21s

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland have earned an historic victory over Spain U21s in Albacete

Everton forward Shayne Lavery put Northern Ireland ahead before Liam Donnelly followed up with the second from the penalty spot. Former Dungannon full-back Donnelly was making his record-breaking 22nd appearance for the U21s.

Spain threatened to pull a goal back before the break but Celtic stopper Conor Hazard saved a penalty kick.

Wolves striker Rafa Mir grabbed a late consolation goal in the 92nd minute but Northern Ireland held on for the win.

The result puts Northern Ireland just a point behind second-placed Slovakia with two games to go.

The victory is even more impressive through the fact that every member of Spain's starting line-up has experience in La Liga or the Bundesliga. Included were the likes of Carlos Soler, who has started 49 La Liga matches for Valencia.

It's a Spanish side that had won 14 of their last 15 matches before tonight. In fact, in Spain U21s' last 16 matches, they've conceded more than one goal only twice. Both occasions were against Northern Ireland, tonight's game adding to NI's 5-3 defeat at Shamrock Park back in March.

On the other side, Glenavon's Mark Sykes started for NI with Coleraine forward Jamie McGonigle coming on from the bench.

SPAIN: Sivera, Mere, Nunez, Roca, Ruiz (Mir 50), Pedraza, Soler (Diop 77), Fornals (Mendez 68), Mayoral, Oyarzabal, Guerrero

NORTHERN IRELAND: Hazard, L Donnelly, Johnson, Ballard, McDonagh, Sykes, Lavery (McGonigle 61), Burns, Dunwoody (Gorman 74), Smyth, Rory Holden (Bird 78).

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