Magic McCourt dazzles Islanders
An irresistible performance from Pat McCourt inspired Northern Ireland to a comfortable 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Windsor Park.
McCourt had been been likened to Lionel Messi by captain Aaron Hughes in the build-up to this match and produced two goals the Barcelona ace would be proud of as Nigel Worthington's side reignited their Group C campaign in some style.
Hughes got the ball rolling after five minutes with his first international goal after 77 caps, before Steven Davis powered home a second from 25 yards.
But this was a night that will be remembered for a scintillating showing from Celtic's McCourt - remarkably starting his first competitive fixture at the age of 27.
With no goals in their two previous home qualifiers, an early breakthrough was necessary to ease some of the tension and Hughes obliged from the first corner of the match.
Sammy Clingan's delivery found Gareth McAuley at the far post and the defender was able to hook the ball across the six-yard box at full stretch. Hughes was first to react and poked it over the line via the the post.
Davis was the man to answer the call in the 66th minute, substitute Niall McGinn speeding down the right flank before cutting back for the Rangers midfielder. He struck the ball sweetly from 25 yards, leaving Jakub Mikkelsen to pick it out of the net.
McCourt added a wonderful third five minutes later. Once again he ghosted into the box from the left wing before Corry Evans' deft back-heel allowed him to curl home from close-range.
There was expectation in the air every time McCourt picked up the ball now and he had one more glorious trick up his sleeve in the 88th minute.
Once more he turned his marker inside and out before bearing down on goal and producing the most sublime of chips that left Mikkelsen clawing at the air and Windsor Park hailing a new hero.