FOOTBALL: Liam Boyce handed first competitive start for Northern Ireland against Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

In-form striker Liam Boyce was handed his first competitive start by Michael O’Neill for Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with Azerbaijan in Baku.

Boyce, who scored 23 league goals for Ross County to finish as the Scottish Premiership’s top scorer last season, opened his international account in the friendly over New Zealand last week and O’Neill kept him in his starting line-up along with fellow forward Josh Magennis.

Northern Ireland train

Northern Ireland train

Gareth McAuley overcame a thigh injury to start alongside Jonny Evans and 37-year-old Aaron Hughes in defence, while the Azeris handed a debut to Brazilian-born Qarabag playmaker Richard Almeida.