Northern Ireland v New Zealand: Liam Boyce's first international goal secures victory at Windsor Park
Northern Ireland 1 New Zealand 0
Liam Boyce scored his first international goal as Northern Ireland warmed up for the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan with a 1-0 win over New Zealand at Windsor Park.
In only his second start for his country, the Ross County striker conjured up the major highlight of the game with a stunning finish in the sixth minute.
Playing with a swagger, the confident frontman seized his chance to impress manager Michael O'Neill and the former Cliftonville hero could now start the Baku showdown next Saturday.
Josh Magennis had a few sights at goal in the opening half but the friendly lacked aggression and with skipper Steven Davis left out of the starting line-up the hosts lacked a little creativity.
Matthew Lund and Tom Flanagan were handed starting roles and looked assured while Jonny Evans oozed class as usual but New Zealand offered little as an attacking force.
It was an end of season friendly that wasn't expected to produce many fireworks but Boyce's strike – Northern Ireland's 650th goal in international football – had the fans on their feet.
Boyce made way for Kyle Lafferty at the break while Shane Ferguson and Davis joined the contest but the visitors almost equalised through Ryan Thomas but Flanagan made an important block.
Lafferty poked a shot wide and Magennis' header went narrowly over the woodwork while at the other end Chris Wood received little service.
But the hosts survived a scare when Kosta Barbarouses rattled the post.
Shay McCartan came on for his international debut and goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who made his Northern Ireland bow 20 years ago, entered the fray.
O'Neill will be relieved there were no fresh injury concerns while Boyce, performing in front of an impressive crowd of 16,815, couldn't have timed his moment of magic any better. He's got the World at his feet.
Belfast Telegraph Digital