EURO 2016: Northern Ireland qualify for finals in France after victory over Greece

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill congratulates captain Steven Davis after the final whistle
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill congratulates captain Steven Davis after the final whistle

NORTHERN IRELAND 3 GREECE 1

Captain Steven Davis scored twice as Northern Ireland saw off Greece at Windsor Park to book their place in next summer’s Euro finals.

Davis led by example by breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute before Josh Magennis added a second four minutes after the break.

Davis headed home his second and Northern Ireland’s third in the 58th minute to seal an historic win for Michael O’Neill’s side in south Belfast.

Not even Christios Aravidis’s late goal for the visitors could spoil the night for the Green and White Army.

It is the first time ever that Northern Ireland have qualified for a European Championship.

It is also a first appearance at a major finals since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Windsor was in dreamland in the 35th minute when Davis broke the deadlock.

Corry Evans threaded a superb ball into Stuart Dallas on the right channel, and when he delivered a low cross into the middle there was Davis to slide home from close range.

There were some late nerves as the half ended, with Chris Brunt bravely blocking Nikos Karelis’ shot in injury time, while Kostas Mitroglou’s follow-up shot clipped the base of the post.

It was a night of raw tension at Windsor Park, but Magennis eased the nerves in the 49th minute.

The Kilmarnock striker showed all his strength to latch onto Oliver Norwood’s corner to send a looping header into the net.

It was the former goalkeeper’s first international goal in his 15th appearance for Northern Ireland.

The fans started cheering ‘we’re on our way to France’ as the atmosphere - courtesy of 11,700 fans - cranked up a notch.

And they were on their feet again in the 58th minute when Davis got his second.

Chris Brunt delivered the corner that was half cleared to Davis on the edge of the box, and the Southampton midfielder managed to guide a header over the defence and into the top corner.

Northern Ireland’s Euro dream was suddenly becoming a reality, but there was still time for Greece to find a consolation when Aravidis finished off Vasilis Torosidis’ low cross in the 87th minute.

It failed to dampen the spirits of the Green and White Army, however, with the celebrations starting in earnest soon after.

N IRELAND: McGovern, McNair (McCullough 85), McAuley, Cathcart, Brunt, Ward (McGinn 81), C. Evans. Norwood, Dallas, Davis, Magennis (Boyce 78).

Subs not used: Mannus, Carroll, Hodson, Ferguson, Reeves, Grigg, McKay, McCourt, McArdle.

GREECE: Karnezis, Moras, Tziolis, Kone (Pelkas 71), Mitroglou (Athanasiadis 76), Torosidis, Karelis (Mantalos 65), Papastathopolous, Holebas, Aravidis, Samaris.

Subs not used: Kapino, Kitsiou, Stafylidis, Fortounis, Vyntra, Vellidis, Tzanetpoulos, Tachtsidis.

Referee: Bas Nijhuis (Netherlands)

Attendance: 11,700