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EC Qualification

  • 10 August 2011
  • • 19:45
  • • Windsor Park, Belfast
  • Referee: E. Alečković
  • • Attendance: 13183
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Northern Ireland 4-0 Faroe Islands: Aaron Hughes’ first international goal & Paddy McCourt masterclass keeps Euro 2012 qualification hopes alive

The Celtic winger put the finishing touches to a confident display from the hosts who are still hopeful of securing second spot in their qualifying group

Northern Ireland kept their hopes of qualification for Euro 2012 with a convincing 4-0 Group C win against the Faroe Islands that saw a masterclass performance from Celtic winger Paddy McCourt.

The midfielder notched two goals in an encounter that saw captain Aaron Hughes hit his first international goal and a fine long-range finish from Steven Davis.

A blustery Windsor Park saw Northern Ireland enter the qualification encounter as rare favourites against a Faroe Island side that had taken a point from them in Toftir 10 months ago.

Their favourite status, however, was of no hindrance and they opened the encounter with dominant possession and fast-paced attacking, a tactic that soon paid off for the Irish.

An inswinging corner from Sammy Clingan found an open Gareth McAuley at the far post and the defender hooked the ball back into the centre of the area and into the feet of his fellow centre-back Hughes. The captain wasted no time in slotting the ball past Faroese goalkeeper Jakup Mikkelsen via the post to register his first ever international strike.

The goal seemed to strengthen the Northern Ireland performance rather than halt it and they began to create several chances in the ensuing minutes. Finding these chances spurned though created a tension amongst the home crowd and found the Faroes beginning to take more possession of the ball.

Such possession led to the away side fashioning their first real chance as striker Joan Edmundsson forced a fine save from Lee Camp after hitting a strong, low effort from the edge of the Irish penalty area.

Tension turned into outright frustration as Paddy McCourt picked up a booking for pushing the referee after seeing - what he thought to be - a bad decision given against the Irish.

The home side soon found their feet again however and after yet another dribble from that man McCourt and a smart cut back, David Healy found himself in front of the goal and drove an effort that Mikkelsen palmed onto the post and out for a corner.

Half-time was met with yet another chance for the Faroese however and Christian Holst somehow managed to screw the ball wide from just two yards after a poorly defended corner from the hosts.

The second half found the Irish come roaring out of the traps yet again but find themselves wasting opportunity after opportunity in search of what would be a decisive second goal.

The prolonged attack found an opening for the counter-attack of the Faroese and, after a smart one-two between their two front men, midfielder Daniel Udsen found himself one-on-one with Camp only to blast his shot way over the far post.

The miss seemed to spur the Irish into action and, after a fine long-range pass from Clingan, substitute Niall McGinn found himself charging down the right wing and proceeded to cut the ball back to the on-rushing Steven Davis who calmly bent the ball past a flailing Mikkelsen from 25 yards.

Faroese legs began to tire and the ever imperious McCourt took advantage finishing a Jonny Evans-salvaged dribble to knock the ball in from five yards and then produced an incredible left-footed chip finish over Mikkelsen from 10-yards to round off a man-of-the-match performance from the Celtic winger.

The result left Northern Ireland’s hopes of qualification in greater stead as they now stand above upcoming opponents Serbia having played the same number of games and two points behind second placed Slovenia with a game in hand.
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