Northern Ireland have taken another giant step towards reaching the 2016 Euro finals after a dramatic 2-1 victory over Finland at Windsor Park.
Two first half goals by man of the match Kyle Lafferty – one a great volley, and the second a cushioned header – leaves them just a point behind Group 7 leaders Romania and in pole position to reach a major finals series for the first time in 30 years.
Finland grabbed a goal in extra time which means a nervous and at time desperate closing seconds, but this victory will do wonders for the team’s morale and with Romania next up, this time in Belfast, manager Michael O’Neill will be looking for at least a point.
Lafferty has now scored five goals in five matches and how he can’t secure himself a permanent place with Championship side Norwich is a complete mystery. He has a questionable temperament, but this is a player at the top of his game who clearly believes France is well within reach.
Lafferty had a goal disallowed before he hit his one-two. Hungary and Greece who have already been beaten by Northern Ireland have to travel to Belfast as well – games they need to win to guarantee a place in the finals.
He said: “There is no reason why we cannot qualify automatically.”
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