Odhrán Crumley reports from The National Stadium at Windsor Park
Northern Ireland have made the perfect start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win against Estonia in Windsor Park.
Second half goals from Niall McGinn and a Steven Davis penalty ensured all three points for the ‘GAWA’.
Michael O’Neill’s side dominated the early exchanges without really troubling the Estonia goal until midway through the half.
In this instance, Jamal Lewis and Jordan Jones combined with the latter playing the ball across goal to Paddy McNair.
Somehow, the Ballyclare man passed up the glorious opportunity directing the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Northern Ireland continued to dominate and had a real shout from a penalty turned down as Nikita Baranov appeared to upend Jamal Lewis as he entered the area.
Nonetheless, the hosts continued to play on the front foot, Jordan Jones sending a delicious ball into the area, but the visiting goalkeeper reacted fast to claim the ball on the goal line.
The theme of one-way traffic continued as Stuart Dallas directed the ball to Jones on the edge of the area, his half-volleyed effort mere inches from opening the scoring.
Despite the heavy barrage the visitors suffered in the first half, they held their resolve as, the game remained scoreless at the break.
The second stanza was merely ten minutes old when the home team eventually broke the deadlock.
It was the lively Jones who swung the ball into the area. Kyle Lafferty teed up the in-form Niall McGinn who blasted the ball into the top right corner of the net.
Estonia hit a purple patch with two real chances to equalise. First, Mattias Kalt blazed over the top after the ball broke to him from a corner.
Seconds later, Henri Anier raced clear, but Bailey Peacock-Farrell was quick off his line to narrow the angle and make the save.
The Green and White Army made their opponents pay for missed chances as Karol Mets fouled George Saville in the area, leaving the referee with no other decision but to award a penalty.
Captain, Steven Davis stepped up to take the kick and made no mistake firing down the middle.
Substitute Josh Magennis had a glorious chance to put the result beyond any doubt. Davies threaded a perfect ball through to the bustling striker, but he could only blast the effort down the throat of Lepmets in the opposition goal and an easy save was made.
Four minutes of additional time would come and go without incident as the sound of the referee’s whistle confirmed maximum points for the home team.
Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Stuart Dallas, Craig Cathcart, Johnny Evans, Jamal Lewis; Paddy McNair, Steve Davies, George Saville; Niall McGinn (Conor McLaughlin 84), Kyle Lafferty (Josh Magennis 76), Jordan Jones (Shane Ferguson 81).
Subs not Used: Michael McGovern, Conor Hazard, Tom Flanagan, Liam Boyce, Jordan Thompson, Daniel Ballard, Aaron Hughes, Conor Washington, Paul Smyth.
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Estonia: Sergi Lepmets; Nikita Baranov, Madis Vihmann, Joonas Tamm; Mattias Kalt; Karol Mets, Henrik Ojamaa (Konstantin Vassiljev 68); Artjom Dmitrijev (Rauno Sappinen 84), Gert Kams; Henri Anier (Sergei Zenjov 76).
Subs not Used: Mihkel Asksalu, Marko Meerits, Taijo Teniste, Dmitri Kruglov, Brent Lepistu, Marten Kuusk, Frank Liivak, Mark Oliver Roosnupp, Ken Kallaste.
Yellow Cards: Joonas Tamm (35),
Red Cards: None
Referee: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Steven Davies (Northern Ireland)