Substitute Josh Magennis was the hero as Northern Ireland snatched a dramatic 2-1 comeback win at Estonia in Saturday’s Euro 2020 qualifier.
Estonia skipper Konstantin Vassiljev’s first-half free-kick appeared to have done enough for the hosts to claim all three points, but a Conor Washington strike deflected off Magennis to level the scores in the 77th minute and the latter sealed the victory three minutes later.
The late turnaround in Tallinn keeps Northern Ireland’s 100 per cent start to qualifying alive and ends their winless away run, which spanned seven matches heading into this contest.
Michael O’Neill’s side are now six points clear at the top of Group C, but all of the four sides below them still have games in hand.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) June 8, 2019
Estonia opened the scoring through Vassiljev’s free-kick, which Bailey Peacock-Farrell failed to keep out down to his left after it was curled around the wall.
The home side thought they had a second goal six minutes before half-time, only for Madis Vihmann’s header to be controversially ruled out for an alleged foul on Peacock-Farrell when attacking the ball.
Northern Ireland grew into the match and went close through Liam Boyce’s wayward header on the edge of the six-yard box.
Vassiljev struck a fierce shot against the crossbar after 53 minutes but Northern Ireland’s pressure eventually told as Washington’s shot struck Magennis and deflected past Sergei Lepmets.
Magennis completed the comeback with 10 minutes to go by guiding Jordan Jones’s cross over the line with a delicate touch, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
Estonia nearly hit back late on through a couple of Artjom Dmitrijev openings, but he was denied by Peacock-Farrell from the first of them and directed the other one wide of the target.
What does it mean? O’Neill’s men team to catch
In a group containing Germany and Netherlands, it is O’Neill’s men who lead the way in Group C. They sit six points above both sides, who they still have to play home and away, but Netherlands have played a game fewer and Germany have two games in hand to come.
Magennis makes huge impact
He was left out of the starting line-up following an underwhelming run of form, but Magennis certainly made his 20 minutes or so on the field count. There was confusion as to who actually claimed the first goal but he added a second soon after in what could be a big goal for his side’s qualifying hopes.
Poor goal to concede
Having got across to his left, Peacock-Farrell could have done more to keep out Vassiljev’s free-kick. But Paddy McNair, on the far side of the wall, was arguably more at fault as he moved inside an inch and allowed the ball to fly past him into the bottom corner – not that it mattered thanks to his side’s late revival.
Key Opta Facts:
– Northern Ireland have won four of their six meetings with Estonia (L2), including both in 2019.
– Estonia have now lost each of their last five European Championship qualifying matches, with today seeing their only goal scored in those five defeats.
– Northern Ireland have only lost one of their last 13 qualifying matches for the European Championship (W9 D3), with today’s win extending their unbeaten run in such games to nine (W6 D3).
– Konstantin Vassiljev’s goal was Estonia’s first scored directly from a free-kick in a European Championship qualifier since Vassiljev himself scored one in March 2011 versus Serbia.
Northern Ireland travel to Belarus on Tuesday for their next qualifier, while Estonia take on Germany in Mainz on the same day.
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