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Tough going: NI ace George Saville admitted he had to be patient

Tough going: NI ace George Saville admitted he had to be patient

Tough going: NI ace George Saville admitted he had to be patient

George Saville felt that Northern Ireland were better in the Nations League than against Estonia in the Euro 2020 opener but ultimately only one thing mattered - the result.

Michael O'Neill's team won 2-0 at Windsor Park thanks to a Niall McGinn strike and Steven Davis penalty.

Middlesbrough midfielder Saville admitted he found it tough going in the first half but was more influential after the break when he was fouled for the Davis spot-kick.

Next up is Belarus at home tomorrow with another three points the target. Prior to Thursday night, Northern Ireland hadn't won a competitive international since September 2017 having lost all four Nations League games last year despite some encouraging moments.

"It was probably not the best performance we've had. I actually think we played much better in the Nations League," said Saville. "Getting the three points was most important. We know the start to this campaign is really vital because of the fixtures we have later on in the year against Holland and Germany.

"The object of this week is to get six points and we've done half the job. The second bit is on Sunday and it's super-important to us to get six points going into the next games in June."

On his own performance, Saville said: "It was tough, they defended well and man-marked us in midfield and stopped us playing. It was difficult for the likes of me and Davo but once it opened up, they fatigued a little bit and our quality showed.

"It was frustrating for me in that first half. I couldn't get going. The second half was a completely different game: we played better, moved the ball quicker, did things with a bit more urgency and took our chances."

Saville was happy to win the penalty, though felt Northern Ireland had an even stronger claim in the first half when Jamal Lewis was brought down.

"I anticipated it, came from behind and he didn't see me so I nicked it and there was contact," he added. "The Jamal one was more of a penalty, being honest!"

Belfast Telegraph