On this day 11 years ago, Northern Ireland beat Poland 3-2 at Windsor Park to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive. Here's how it was reported in the Sunday Life:
How Artur Boruc must be cursing Arsenal’s Lucasz Fabianski this morning. The controversial Celtic goalkeeper wasn’t even supposed to be on the Windsor Park pitch yesterday.
But after stand-in Fabianski fell ill yesterday morning, the Hoops hero was forced to take his place in goal.
And Northern Ireland are rejoicing after yesterday’s thrilling 3-2 victory put them top of Group Three and keeps our World Cup qualifying dream alive.
Boruc, who has been blunder prone this season for Celtic, had been told for reasons unspecified, that he could give this match a miss.
However, he played and endured the worst experience of his football career.
The 29-year-old conceded three goals, one a total howler to virtually seal victory at 3-1, and looked totally nervous and agitated throughout, with a vociferous Windsor Park crowd on his back.
It just proved the point — put him under pressure and he will crack.
This match was played under tight security with riot police inside the Polish end after trouble leading up to the game.
Segregation and riot police at Windsor Park on international days? We thought we'd left those times behind.
But yesterday the area surrounding the famous south Belfast venue and indeed the city centre, was reminiscent of a war zone as hundreds of booze-fuelled Polish fans, many without tickets, clashed with riot police, rival fans and bystanders.
Some Northern Ireland supporters were caught up in the mayhem, didn’t make it to the ground, and needed hospital attention.
In a small corner of Windsor, beside the Viewing Lounge, the Poles lit fireworks and flares to add colour to the proceedings but there was always an undercurrent as riot cops held a watching brief.
The aggro was a pity because the talking point really should be about a stirring Northern Ireland performance that puts South Africa next summer right back on the travel itinerary.
Beat Slovenia on Wednesday and we are right back in there are serious contenders.
After this result, the belief is there, in the team and in the stands.
We also had the treat of Jonny Evans' first international goal, putting us back on track at 2-1, after the Poles had cancelled out Warren Feeney's early opener.
Northern Ireland, desperate for victory to keep alive those World Cup aspirations, made their intentions known from as early as the third minute. Goalkeeper Maik Taylor cleared the ball to Chris Brunt on the left who immediately played in the rampaging Feeney.
The on-loan Dundee United striker latched onto the pass and raced into the box but his low shot flew past Boruc and the keeper’s far upright.
Five minutes later, ace marksman David Healy found himself, after a mistake from Michal Zewlakow, one-on-one with Boruc but the Celtic keeper narrowed the angle, made a partial save and Dariusz Dudka cleared the danger.
Boruc, after confidently walking out for the national anthems, was a bundle of nerves throughout the first half and this certainly worked to Northern Ireland’s advantage for the opening goal on 10 minutes.
A long looping cross from Brunt was lost in the sun by the Celtic keeper at his back post, Johnson, captain for the day on his 50th appearance for Northern Ireland, saw it all the way and laid it on a plate for Feeney to side foot into an empty net.
How Feeno enjoyed that against his Scottish Premier rival, and not for the first time, having struck against Boruc at club level this season, too.
Northern Ireland were stroking the ball around confidently and did not look at all troubled by the imposing Polish players.
Poland hadn’t tested Taylor during the opening period of the first half but their first effort on goal ended with an equaliser on 27 minutes when they sprung the offside trap.
Motherwell centre half Stephen Craigan was caught out and the pace of Ireeneusz Jelen held off Aaron Hughes to slot the ball past Taylor, even though the Birmingham City keeper managed to get a hand to it.
That goal filled the east Europeans with immense confidence and while their central defenders continued to struggle, the Polish midfield and attack started to put pressure on the Northern Ireland back four.
Their momentum was disrupted, though, as play was held up for a couple of minutes as assistant referee Stefan Wittberg received treatment after being struck on the head by a coin thrown from a section of the Northern Ireland support in the North Stand.
An act of idiocy that will prove costly to the IFA, both financially and in image terms.
The lines to the Nolan Show will be busy in the morning.
When played resumed, Poland pressed Northern Ireland back once again and just before the break, a corner from Roger Guerriero was flicked on and fell at the feet of goalscorer Ireneusz inside the six yard box. The Auxerre striker, thankfully, miscued and the ball trickled into Taylor’s arms.
Northern Ireland pressurised immediately from the restart and forced a corner. McCann drove it in wonderfully well and as the Polish players looked on in a daze, Jonny Evans powered in to score his first international goal with a neat volley.
Seconds later Chris Brunt brought Robert Lewandowski down on the edge of the Northern Ireland box and was quickly shown a yellow card — his second in the campaign so he must sit out Wednesday’s game with Slovenia.
From the resulting free kick Jacek Krzynowek shot low but Taylor was equal to it.
Boruc, now stationed in front of the Kop, and feeling the full force of their ridicule, did not look at ease kicking regulation balls out of play.
His day became a calamity on 61 minutes when centre half Zewlakow touched back the ball after being crowded in midfield. The ball came towards Boruc, bobbled on the pitch and left the hapless Celtic stopper kicking fesh air as the ball finished in the back of the net – much to the amusement of every Northern Ireland player and fan in a packed Windsor Park.
Poland, it seemed with this disaster, had given up the fight and McCann was becoming a magician from corners, constantly finding his man and on 72 minutes the impressive Gareth McAuley was unfortunate not to score a fourth, just directing his header over the bar.
Poland had used all three subs to try and change the game while Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington only brought on defensive Chris Baird for the excellent and hard working Warren Feeney to keep it tight at the back.
Northern Ireland weren’t going to lose this one.
They did concede again in the 89th minute but it was no more than consolation — bigsubstitute Saganowski heading home.
Young Rangers forward Andrew Little, from Fermanagh, as soon as this goal was scored, was given his debut and this was yet another positive for boss Worthington.
The same cannot be said for the Polish fans who were held in long after the final whistle and clashed with riot police as they attempted to gain access to the playing area.
But this was Northern Ireland’s day and we’re now in a commanding position in Group Three again.
Optimism is high ahead of Wednesday night’s match with Slovenia.
But folks, let's not get carried away.
For haven’t we been here before in March.
Two years ago to be exact.
We led our European qualifying group only to miss out agonisingly on qualification for Austria and Switzerland.
Now is the time when we find out whether lessons will be learned.
For Artur Boruc, he learned a simple lesson yesterday — make sure Fabianski is always available for you'll always be welcome back at Windsor Park when you play like that.