1. ITV Report

Late winner puts NI top of Euro 2020 qualifiers group

Josh Magennis provided the game-winning goal for NI against Belarus. Credit: Presseye
  • Northern Ireland 2 - 1 Belarus

A late winner from Josh Magennis helped Northern Ireland to the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group after their 2-1 win over Belarus at Windsor Park.

Sunday’s Group C game saw Michael O’Neill’s men take the lead in the first half, when Jonny Evans headed home on the 30th minute mark.

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It was a short-lived advantage for the hosts though, with Belarus quickly levelling things back up thanks to a goal from Ihar Stasevich.

And Northern Ireland had to wait until the 87th minute to break the deadlock.

The NI team celebrate in front of their fans at Windsor Park. Credit: Presseye

But Magennis’s goal, when he got on the end of Paddy McNair’s cross just in front of the box, put them back in front and the hosts held out for the win.

There may still be a long way to go, but with two wins from two, Northern Ireland will be pleased to know they have done as much as they can at this stage in their qualifying campaign.

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Taking six points from their opening two games at home was always a minimum requirement if Northern Ireland are to have a hope of beating either the Netherlands or Germany to one of the two automatic qualification places from Group C.

Now O’Neill will challenge his players to replicate their victories over Estonia and Belarus when they travel to face them away from home in June.

There’s been a massive buy-in from the players and we’ve got to go out there and replicate the results – it’s a huge ask, but we’re capable.

– Michael O’Neill

“Maybe we won't play identically in terms of personnel, but it will be pretty similar in terms of the shape,” he said.

“You learn about your team all the time. It’s very difficult to have that level of possession away from home, but what we have got good at away from home is finding a way to win.

“We proved that in Azerbaijan (in 2017) and other places in recent years and we’ve got to do that in June.”