Gavin Whyte scored with his first touch in international football as Northern Ireland rebounded from a disappointing Nations League debut to notch a 3-0 friendly win over Israel.
Oxford United winger Whyte bundled home less than two minutes after stepping on for his debut to wrap up a confident response to Saturday’s defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Northern Ireland failed to turn their dominance into a result on that occasion but there was little threat of a repeat at Windsor Park after Steven Davis struck inside 13 minutes.
Stuart Dallas added a second before the interval and later set up Whyte for his memorable moment as Michael O’Neill’s men brought an end to a three-game winless run.
Ruthlessly made to regret their wastefulness on the weekend, Northern Ireland appeared to have heeded the lesson during a professional and polished first 45 minutes.
Davis made the breakthrough with a clean first-time finish that fizzed off Munas Dabbur’s head and through Guy Haimov’s hands.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) September 11, 2018
The second was a long time coming and Dallas supplied it four minutes from the break, volleying in George Saville’s curling cross to the far post.
Paddy McNair had half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away soon after the restart and Middlesbrough midfielder Saville sliced wide with a chance to extend the margin.
In the end, it was fittingly left to debutant Whyte to put the polish on a positive night for Northern Ireland, the 22-year-old delighting the home crowd by bundling home the loose ball from Dallas’ low left-sided cross.
What it means: Northern Ireland still moving forward
They may have given up ground to Bosnia-Herzegovina but, on this week’s evidence, Northern Ireland remain very much capable of winning promotion from Group 3 in League B.
The hosts should have prevailed in their opener and were richly deserving of a victory here that will instill the belief necessary to make a genuine challenge for top spot.
Pat on the back: Long-term future for Lewis
In youngster Jamal Lewis, O’Neill can ink in Northern Ireland’s left-back for the next decade.
The Norwich City product, still just 20, looks at home in the international arena as he again showed a liking for forward raids at Windsor Park, along with some brave defending in his own box.
Boot up the backside: Haimov’s headache
Davis’ cleanly struck opener may have taken a slight touch off striker Dabbur but Israel goalkeeper Haimov can hardly be excused for allowing the ball to pass through his hands.
There were questions, too, over his inability to keep out the close-range second in what was a forgettable night for the Maccabi Haifa man.
Both teams return to Nations League action in October as Northern Ireland visit Austria and then Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Israel return home for dates with Scotland and Albania in Group 1 of League C.
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