Northern Ireland get Euro 2020 campaign off to winning start against Estonia.

Northern Ireland 2 Estonia 0

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 9:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 9:46 pm
Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis takes on the Estonia defence

Northern Ireland's EURO 2020 qualifying campaign got off to a flying start as they saw off Estonia 2-0 in Belfast.

A Niall McGinn strike and a penalty from Steven Davis sealed the points for Michael O'Neill's side and they now go into Sunday's clash against Belarus on a high.

Harder challenges lie ahead in the group lie ahead but it was job done at Windsor Park - bring on Belarus.

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What looked like a full house at Windsor got behind the team from the off and Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty won his first header of the game to put Estonia under pressure.

Aberdeen's Niall McGinn had the first chance in the second minute but he dragged his shot wide when well placed.

It was a good chance for McGinn and hopefully the multiple missed chances during the Nations League would not return to haunt Michael O'Neill's side - but this was a promising start from the men in green.

Then Jordan Jones - who will join Rangers in the summer - made a lung bursting run in the ninth minute to win a corner but the chance came to nothing.

The home side were playing at a high tempo and Estonia seemed quite happy to soak up the pressure as Northern Ireland attempted to break them down.

George Saville had a free-kick opportunity in the 16th minute. His effort however failed to get over the Estonia defence who were proving a difficult hurdle to overcome.

In the 19th minute it should have been 1-0. A Jones ball found Paddy McNair who headed it into the ground and over the bar. A golden opportunity and if they keep missing these chances they could be made to pay for their lack of cutting edge in front of goal.

That missed chance seemed to inspire Estonia and they started to enjoy a good spell while the home side seemed strangely deflated and nervous.

Jamal Lewis then made a storming run in the 29th minute and this seemed to revitalise the home side. Great energy from the youngster.

McGinn then threw in a free-kick from the right. Craig Cathcart got his head to it but his effort was easily gather by keeper Sergei Lepmets in the Estonia goal.

Kilmarnock winger Jones then tried his luck in the 33rd minute but his effort flew high and wide.

Jones again went close six minutes from the break. A Stuart Dallas throw-in found it's way to him. His shot had keeper Lepmets sprawling as it flashed wide of the post.

Two minutes before the break McGinn twisted and turned before shooting, His effort was also off target and would the opener NI needed ever come?

The home side started the second half brightly but a goal was needed to calm the nervous home support after the missed chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Finally is was 1-0 in the 56th minute hammered home after the ball fell to him in the box. A cracking finish from the Dons winger and there was a huge sigh of relief as the home side finally made the breakthrough that had been on the cards for quite some time.

It was McGinn's first international goal since he scored against the Ukraine in Lyon during the EURO 2016 Finals.

McNair had another chance in the 64th minute but he headed over the bar under pressure.

The home side were composed and calm but one goal for Estonia could change everything at this stage of the game and they were still looking threatening.

Peacock-Farrell then came to Northern Ireland's rescue in the 72nd minute. The Leeds United keeper standing tall to block Henri Anier's chance after he had been put clean through.

The home side then got a penalty shortly afterwards as Saville was fouled in the box.

Up stepped captain Steve Davis and he made it 2-0 from the spot in the 74th minute. A cool finish from the midfielder and Northern Ireland looked on their way to their first win of their EUR0 2020 qualifying campaign.

Substitute Josh Magennis - who had come on for Lafferty - nearly made it 3-0 but he shot straight at the keeper when well placed.

Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell,Lewis, Evans, Saville, McGinn (McLaughlin 84mins), Davis, Lafferty (Magennis 75mins), Dallas, Jones (Ferguson 81mins), McNair, Cathcart.

Subs not used: McGovern, Hazard, Flanagan, Boyce, Thompson, Ballard, Hughes, Washington, Smyth.

Estonia: Lepmets, Pikk, Kait, Anier (Zenjov 75mins), Ojamaa (Vassiljev 67mins), Vihmann, Tamm, Mets, Dmitrijev (Sappinen 84mins), Baranov, Teniste.

Subs not used: Aksalu, Meerits, Kams, Kruglo, Lepistu, Kuusk, Liivak, Roosnupp, Kallaste.

Referee: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)