Conor Washington’s first international goal ensured Northern Ireland set a new record by extending their unbeaten run to 10 games with a 1-0 friendly win over Slovenia at Windsor Park.
After making his debut in the 1-1 draw with Wales last week, Washington’s maiden Northern Ireland strike was enough for Michael O’Neill’s team to surpass the nine-match streak set by Billy Bingham’s side in 1986.
Northern Ireland came under early pressure but were denied an opener when QPR forward Washington was thwarted by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak before the half-hour mark.
However, Washington made no mistake with his next opportunity soon after, showing great strength to hold off two challenges before sneaking an effort inside the upright.
Slovenia were awarded a penalty with 66 minutes on the clock when Jonny Evans sent Miral Samardzic tumbling in the area, but half-time substitute Milivoje Novakovic was denied by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who replaced Michael McGovern in the line-up.
Josh Magennis missed a chance to double the hosts’ lead soon after, but they held on for a slender win that will provide another boost to their confidence ahead of Euro 2016.
O’Neill deployed a three-man defence that immediately came under pressure on Monday night, Nejc Skubic curling over before Roman Bezjak fired into the side-netting with 12 minutes on the clock, before fans inside Windsor Park offered applause in memory of late Netherlands icon Johan Cruyff two minutes later.
Washington created Northern Ireland’s first decent chance shortly before the half-hour mark, but after beating Samardzic to burst into the box, his attempt to slide the ball under the onrushing Oblak was kept out.
Washington did not fail at the second attempt, however, outmuscling Samardzic and Skubic before cutting inside Bostjan Cesar and firing a right-footed shot inside the near post.
Jamie Ward was perhaps lucky to avoid a second yellow card early in the second half as his challenge on Oblak resulted in a fiery confrontation with Samardzic that drew in numerous players and led to bookings for Washington and the Slovenia goalkeeper.
The visitors were offered a route back into the game when Evans hauled down Samardzic inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
But Novakovic was unable to take the chance to pull Slovenia level, his low penalty to Carroll’s right parried aside by the veteran stopper.
Northern Ireland came close to extending their lead soon after when Magennis pounced after Oblak failed to hold Kyle Lafferty’s cross, but he could only steer a shot wide.
Carroll produced a late save from to keep Valter Birsa off the scoresheet in the closing stages, denying Slovenia an equaliser and ensuring history was made with a win.
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