INTERNATIONAL: Paul Smyth grabs the winner for Northern Ireland on his debut

Northern Ireland equalise against South Korea at the National Stadium. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland equalise against South Korea at the National Stadium. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland 2 South Korea 1

Saturday 24 March will live long in the memory for Paul Smyth.

The Queens Park Rangers midfielder came off the bench to score the winner for Northern Ireland in the closing stages of the game against South Korea at the National Stadium.

Smyth is no stranger to Windsor Park having plied his trade there with Linfield before making the switch to England earlier this season.

And he was coolness personified as he slotted in the winning goal with four minutes to go against a Korean side who were undefeated in their last eight outings.

Tottenham forward Heungmin Son showed his quality inside the first minute weaving his way to the byline before drilling a low ball across the face of goal.

Thankfully for Northern it evaded the waiting South Korea players in the box.

The hosts did not heed the warning though. On seven minutes Son found space before picking out the run of Changhoon Kwon with a sublime pass, and he coolly slotted underneath Trevor Carson.

The Motherwell man was called into action again on 11 minutes as that man Son drilled a low shot through a crowd of players at the near post, which Carson did well to palm away.

Northern Ireland thought they had drawn level on 14 minutes as Jamie Ward fired in following a scramble in the box. He reacted first to slot in the loose ball after George Saville's effort had been palmed away by Seunggyu Kim, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Ward wasn't to be denied though. On 20 minutes Oliver Norwood picked him out with a clever pass from a free kick, and Ward's low cross into the net off the unfortunate Minjae Kim to give Michael O'Neill's men their first goal in four games.

Northern Ireland started the second half with more attacking intent. A sweeping move down the right-hand side saw Conor McLaughlin drill a low cross into the box, the ball eventually fell for Josh Magennis, whose first time shot was tipped over by Kim.

Back came South Korea as Yong Lee crossed for the impressive Jaesung Lee on 52 minutes, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.

Carson did well to push away another deflected effort five minutes later after Gareth McAuley had partially blocked Jooho Park's shot.

The game lost some of its intensity after a raft of substitutions midway through the second half.

The visitors though went close to regaining the lead with ten minutes to go as Jaesung Lee cut through the Northern Ireland defence before cutting the ball back for Shinwook Kim, McLaughlin though was alert to block his shot.

Michael O'Neill introduced Smyth from the bench for his senior debut, and within four minutes he had fired Northern Ireland in front.

He showed great skill to hold off two defenders before lashing a shot past Kim to the delight of the home support.

Smyth is the first Northern Ireland player to score his debut since George McCartney in 2001.

Northern Ireland: Carson McAuley, J Evans (Cathcart 68), Jones (Smyth 82), Lewis, C Evans (Washington 63), Saville, Norwood (McNair 71), Hughes (McLaughlin 18), Ward (Boyce 63), Magennis.

Subs: McGovern, Ferguson, Lavery, Hazard.

South Korea: S Kim, Minjae Kim, J Kim (Minwoo Kim 35), Y Lee, Jang, Ki (Jung 67), Park (C Lee 67), Kwon (Hwang 62), J Lee, Son (Yeom 75), S Kim.

Subs: J Kim, Jo, Hong, Choi, Yun, Koo, K Lee.

Referee: Bobby Madden.