Saturday, May 27, 2017

O´Neill hails ´perfect night´

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 May 2016

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill hailed his side’s 3-0 friendly victory over Belarus at Windsor Park as a “perfect night”.

Goals from Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Will Grigg in Belfast helped the hosts extend their unbeaten run to 11 games and provided them with another confidence boost ahead of Euro 2016, which gets underway next month.

Lafferty’s early strike came on the occasion of his 50th cap, while Washington capitalised upon a goalkeeping error to bag his second goal in as many friendlies just before the break.

Grigg then completed the scoring by opening his international account two minutes from time.

O’Neill, who is set to name his final 23-man squad for the European Championships on Saturday, was delighted with what his charges produced in front of a jubilant home crowd.

“It was a great performance and a great result,” he told the BBC.

“We were able to play about with things a bit and it was a perfect night for us.

“I want players to show some flexibility and be able to change and that’s what they showed tonight.

“Paddy McNair was outstanding throughout, while Conor [Washington] has scored two in three games to make a big statement. 

“It was great to see Will [Grigg] get on the scoresheet too.

“Unfortunately I’ve had to whittle the squad down to 23 and I’ve informed the five players who will not be going with us. 

“They have all made a big contribution already and hopefully all of them still have a big international future ahead of them.”

At the final whistle, O’Neill thanked the Windsor Park faithful for helping drive the country to their first major finals appearance since the 1986 World Cup.

“It’s easy to support a team in the good times,” he said, “but you’ve been with us all the way.

“Thank you for the support that you’ve given over my four years.

“Hopefully you’ve a team that you’re proud of; we’re determined to make you proud. 

“We’ll do everything in our power to make it a memorable summer for you.”

Northern Ireland will now travel to Austria for a week-long training camp before taking on Slovakia in their final warm-up game on June 4.

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