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Northern Ireland put on a show for Rachel Furness’ historic night

Northern Ireland 9 North Macedonia 0

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Hat trick hero: Northern Ireland’s Kirsty McGuinness celebrates scoring one of three goals against North Macedonia last night

Hat trick hero: Northern Ireland’s Kirsty McGuinness celebrates scoring one of three goals against North Macedonia last night

William Cherry/Presseye

Hat trick hero: Northern Ireland’s Kirsty McGuinness celebrates scoring one of three goals against North Macedonia last night

What do you do for an encore?

Well, in Northern Ireland’s case, you put on another goal-fest.

After scoring 11 times in North Macedonia last Thursday — a game that few fans were able to watch live — Kenny Shiels team wowed a sell-out Seaview and those watching from home by banging in another nine.

It was cold in north Belfast, but on the pitch Northern Ireland were hot. Leading 4-0 at half time through two Kirsty McGuinness goals and one each from Rebecca Holloway and Rachel Furness, they went on to ram home their dominance in the second period.

McGuinness completed her hat-trick, Holloway and Furness netted again either side of Simone Magill scoring and Kerry Beattie struck with the last kick of the ball.

The Women’s World Cup 2023 Group D table now shows Northern Ireland in second place, three points above Austria, who face Luxembourg tonight, and with a +24 goal difference that is seven better than the Austrians’.

And after shocking the continent to qualify for the Women’s Euro 2022 finals, Northern Ireland are still on course to rock the world.

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It was clear straight from the kick off that Northern Ireland weren’t going to play their way into the game, they were going to attack from the word go.

Although there were a few flurries around the box, nothing was really breaking in front of goal, with a packed North Macedonia defence intent on frustrating Shiels’ team for as long as possible.

An offside flag against Magill denied an opening goal, but it was only prolonging the inevitable and only for 90 seconds.

The move involving Marissa Callaghan, Magill and Furness was patient and cool, a burst of pace from McGuinness saw her cut in from the left and her finish off the far post was clinical.

There was a long way to go and the expectation, too, that there would be plenty more goals. How many and how long until the next one was the question.

Another question mark which came on the back of the first game surrounded the Macedonia goalkeeper Magdalena Lekovska and her vulnerability from long-range shots.

So much so that, rather than send the ball into the box from corner kicks, Northern Ireland playedalong the ground to players waiting 25 yards out on a couple of occasions, but neither Lauren Wade nor Callaghan actually tested Lekovska with their efforts.

It was left to Holloway to show how it was done when the second goal finally arrived after 31 minutes.

There was little on when Magill collected the ball with her back to goal just outside the box and, with no real options for a pass, Holloway let fly with a stunning 30 yard finish.

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Rachel Furness became NI’s all-time top scorer last night

Rachel Furness became NI’s all-time top scorer last night

PA

Rachel Furness became NI’s all-time top scorer last night

The third goal, four minutes later, was about graft as well as craft and owed so much to the tenacity of Magill. She fought for the ball on the edge of the 18 yard box, pushed it back into the path of Callaghan, took it back and then set up Furness to smash home her 37th international goal and thus take the Northern Ireland Women’s record one ahead of the men’s one held, of course, by David Healy.

The vulnerabilities of the visiting goalkeeper were exposed when the fourth goal arrived on 37 minutes. Out on the left with not really anyone to aim for in the middle, McGuinness looked up and sent an audacious chip into the net.

After the break, Wade and then McGuinness went close before the moment came when McGuinness couldn’t miss. A superb ball forward from Julie Nelson found Magill and her pull back across the face of goal was perfect for the Cliftonville Ladies striker to tap in.

An almost identical ball two minutes later brought number six — this time it was Wade with the pass for Holloway to convert.

Magill had been outstanding all night and finally got the goal she deserved by weaving through a couple of meek challenges before picking her spot in the bottom corner.

There was still 16 minutes to go and Northern Ireland wanted more. Straight from the restart, six green shirts raced forward to press the Macedonia defence as they battled to boost the goal difference even further.

And they did, with two more in the final minutes, both crated by Wade. She sent in a superb left-foot delivery for Furness to head home her second of the night and then another with her right for Beattie to score her first in a green shirt.

With that, the referee sounded the final whistle to end the game and a wonderful year for the team.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Burns, McKenna (Watling, 46 mins), Nelson, McFadden (Andrews, 46 mins), Vance, Wade, Callaghan (McDaniel, 65 mins), Furness, Holloway (C McGuinness, 83 mins), Magill, K McGuinness (Beattie, 70 mins). Unused subs: Flaherty, McCarron, Burrows, Hamilton, Caldwell, McLaren, Harvey-Clifford.

NORTH MACEDONIA: Lekovska, Jankovska, (Zivikj, 54 mins), Mileska, Milchevska, (Paneska, 54 mins), Boseska, Petrovska, Shemsovikj (Markovska, 46 mins), Maksuti, Mustafa (Gjorgjseska, 85 mins), Saliihi (Husein, 78 mins), Petrushevska (Velkova, 65 mins). Unused subs: Kolarovska, Kolevska, Velkova, Joshevska, Pavlovska.

Referee: Meltar Shemesh (Israel).

Player of the match: Kirsty McGuinness

Match rating: 8/10


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