Belfast Telegraph

Paddy McNair double helps Northern Ireland edge Czech Republic in thrilling international friendly in Prague

Czech Republic 2-3 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's defender Paddy McNair (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the international friendly football match between Czech Republic and Northern Ireland in Prague, on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP) (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's defender Paddy McNair (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the international friendly football match between Czech Republic and Northern Ireland in Prague, on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP) (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images)
Paddy McNair scored a first-half double for Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland's travelling support celebrates the win in the Czech Republic.
Jonny Evans salutes the Northern Ireland support.
Stuart Dallas applauds the Northern Ireland fans.
Josh Magennis was the goal-scoring hero against the Netherlands.
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans after defeating the Czech Republic 3-2 in Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Paddy McNair scored twice for Northern Ireland in Prague.
Northern Ireland's defender Jonny Evans celebrates his goal in Prague.
Czech Republic's midfielder Alex Kral vies for a ball with Northern Ireland's defender Paddy McNair during the international friendly football match between Czech Republic and Northern Ireland in Prague, on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP) (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images)
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair scoring his second goal past Czech Republic's Jifi Pavlenka during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair celebrates scoring his second goal against the Czech Republic during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair scoring his second goal against the Czech Republic during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair celebrates scoring against the Czech Republic during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair celebrates scoring against the Czech Republic during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair celebrates scoring against the Czech Republic during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Czech Republic's Jan Kopic with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Monday evenings International Friendly at the Generali Arena, Prague. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Northern Ireland Russian Dolls in a shop in Prague town centre.
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players Corry Evans and Craig Cathcart arrive at the stadium for Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Grahame Cowan and Kieth Dawson in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fan Danielle Gibson from Portadown in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Stephen McDonald, Ted Rea, Danielle Gibson and Colin Gibson in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans Trevor, Joycelyn and Jonathan Canning from Lurgan in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fans in Prague ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players arrive at the stadium for Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Micheal O'Neill at the stadium for Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis arrives at the stadium for Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland Russian Dolls in Prague shop ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast, Northern Ireland - 14th October 2019 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's fan Matthew Webb with the Northern Ireland team Russian dolls in a Prague shop ahead of Monday evenings Friendly against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, . Photo by William Cherry/Presseye
Northern Ireland players warm up for their international friendly at the Generali Arena in Prague.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland produced a stunning second half performance to see off the Czech Republic in their international friendly in Prague.

It had looked like it was game over at half-time, with a Paddy McNair double either side of a Jonny Evans effort putting Michael O'Neill's men into a deserved three-goal lead.

The Czech side, which contained ten changes to the team that had beaten England just a few days before, were much improved after the break and hit back with two goals in as many minutes, Vladimir Darida and Alex Kral on target.

To their credit, the visitors held off late pressure to earn their first away friendly win since beating Finland in 2006.

Michael O'Neill made six changes to his side and, as he had hinted, experimented with the formation, opting for a 3-5-2 with Conor McLaughlin and Stuart Dallas on the wings and Gavin Whyte shifting up top to partner Liam Boyce.

Even the boss, however, couldn't possibly have envisaged how well his plans would pay off during a breath-taking opening half.

A back-line, led by a flawless Tom Flanagan, was all-but imperious as the defensive stability shown in Rotterdam proved even more effective in Prague.

While the hosts enjoyed periods of possession, the best they could offer was an early Radim Reznik header, which was straight at Michael McGovern.

At the other end, it seemed that Northern Ireland could carve out gilt-edged at will.

The warning sign arrived early when the tireless high press had the defence scrambling.

They were on the front foot and it didn't take long for them to take the lead, McNair nipping in ahead of the defender to get on the end of Liam Boyce's cross and slot a finish into the bottom corner.

Michael O'Neill's men continued to flock forward and the press predictably paid off soon after, when it forced a defensive error as Stuart Dallas stretched to get a volley in at an open goal but, on his weaker side, he couldn't keep his effort under the bar.

The missed chance was soon forgotten as the second goal arrived, Jonny Evans reacting to net his fourth international goal after Flanagan's effort on McNair cross was blocked.

The GAWA were in dreamland but, deservedly, their side weren't done there. The third goal was the pick of the three; an exemplary display of counter-attacking football.

When the ball was cleared to Steven Davis, the skipper turned to see McNair dashing through the defence. Could he thread the eye of needle and play in his fellow midfielder? Perfectly. From there, the Middlesbrough man finished it like a star striker, calmly rounding the Bayer Leverkusen keeper to convert.

For every bit as bad as the Czech Republic were in the first-half, they were just as impressive after the break. A half-time rocket, no doubt, from manager Jaroslav Šilhavý along with a few changes and the hosts showed why they had beaten England a few days previous.

One of the half-time substitutes was Zdenek Ondrasek and the FC Dallas forward provided a focal-point for his side's attack. It was little surprise that he was involved in both of his side's quickfire goals as they stunned their visitors.

The first arrived on 67 when the forward teed up fellow sub Vladimir Darida to smash home. A minute later and McGovern was plucking the ball from his net once again, this time thanks to a stunning solo effort from Alex Kral. Ondrasek fed the winger with a neat flick and he didn't need a second invitation, ghosting past Craig Cathcart before cutting the back inside Jonny Evans and unleashing an unstoppable effort into the bottom corner.

The hosts were camped inside Northern Ireland's half for the remainder of the game as an increasingly tired-looking visiting side struggled to hold back their hosts.

After Ondrasek had an injury-time leveller ruled out as he bundled both McGovern and the ball into the net from a corner, the final whistle sounded and it was Czech-mate for Michael O'Neill's men.

Czech Republic: Pavlenka, Reznik, Simic (Celustka 45), Kudela, Krejci (Masopust 75), Husbauer (Schick 65), Kalvach (Darida 45), Zmrhal (Boril 45), Kral, Kopic, Krmencik (Ondrasek 45).

Subs not used: Vaclik, Brabec, Coufal, Jankto, Soucek, Kolar.

Northern Ireland: McGovern, J Evans, Cathcart, Flanagan, McLaughlin, McNair, Davis (C Evans 65), Thompson (Saville 65), Dallas, Whyte (McGinn 87), Boyce (Magennis 71).

Subs not used: Smith, Lafferty, Ferguson, Peacock-Farrell, Kennedy, Donnelly, Carson.

Man of the match: Paddy McNair

Here's the game as it happened:

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