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Belarus 0-1 Northern Ireland: Late Paddy McNair strike keeps visitors top of Group C

Aleksandr Martynovich in action against NI's Conor Washington

Northern Ireland remain three points clear at the top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group C after Paddy McNair's 86th-minute strike gave them a 1-0 victory over Belarus in Borisov.

The win means Northern Ireland have won four games in a row at the start of a qualifying campaign for the first time.

McNair cut inside and drilled a low right-foot shot past Aleksandr Gutor for his first international goal.

NI face double headers against Germany and the Netherlands in the autumn.

The second-placed Germans beat Estonia 8-0 on Tuesday to make it three wins out of three, with the Dutch having picked up three points from their opening two fixtures.

Three-team battle for qualification

It now looks like a three-way battle for the two qualifying spots on offer for next summer's championships.

Both Estonia and Belarus are out of contention, having failed to pick up a point from a combined total of seven games played.

O'Neill's side began their ultimately successful bid to reach the Euro 2016 finals with three successive wins in September and October 2014 but have now gone one better to lie on 12 points ahead of their four remaining games.

Germany will host the Netherlands in the next set of group games on 6 September, before Joachim Low's side travel to face NI in Belfast three days later, the same night that the Dutch are away to Estonia.

Northern Ireland will finish their campaign with matches away to the Dutch in October, then at home to the Netherlands and away to Germany in November.

Success on their travels

Northern Ireland had been without an away win in their last seven attempts before beating Estonia 2-1 on Saturday but this triumph in Belarus gave them back-to-back qualifying victories on the road for only the second time - their previous consecutive away wins coming against Latvia and Lithuania in 1993.

O'Neill's men are now unbeaten in 10 European Championship qualifying games, stretching back to their previous campaign, and have defeated Belarus in all three meetings between the countries.

Having seen off both Estonia and Belarus at Windsor Park in March, NI have now beaten both nations away from home to give themselves a fighting chance of making the Euro finals for only the second time.

The four successes in a row come on the back of four losses from four outings in the Nations League at the end of last year.

In contrast, the Belarusians' hopes of qualification rest on a side-door entry as one of the four Nations League winners.

Their promotion from League D to League C in the inaugural competition means that they are in the play-offs for a slot at the tournament which will be played in various countries across Europe.

O'Neill rings the changes

O'Neill chose to start all three players who made such a big impact as substitutes in Estonia - Jordan Jones, plus goalscorers Josh Magennis and Conor Washington - with midfielder Corry Evans also coming into the line-up.

George Saville, Stuart Dallas and Liam Boyce were named as substitutes, with the former two being introduced off the bench in the second half.

Belarus belied the fact that they lie 48 places behind their opponents in the Fifa rankings, 33 as opposed to 81, by enjoying more of the possession in the first half but the only clear-cut chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Washington, who flashed a right-foot shot wide of the post in the fourth minute.

The lively Washington saw an early second-half effort comfortably dealt with by Gutor, who also parried Saville's drive, while Michael Smith was wide with two late strikes on goal.

Igor Stasevich's right-foot shot was saved low down to his left by Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 70th minute but McNair's late goal sparked wild celebrations among the travelling support in the Borisov Arena.

Line-ups

Belarus

  • 1Gutor
  • 4ShitovSubstituted forVeretiloat 71'minutes
  • 3Martynovich
  • 17Naumov
  • 5Polyakov
  • 18Maevski
  • 8KorzunBooked at 35minsSubstituted forKislyakat 45'minutes
  • 7Kovalev
  • 14ShikavkaSubstituted forLaptevat 58'minutes
  • 22Stasevich
  • 23Nekhajchik

Substitutes

  • 2Dragun
  • 6Volkov
  • 9Laptev
  • 10Gromyko
  • 11Gordeychuk
  • 12Klimovich
  • 13Skavysh
  • 15Kislyak
  • 16Pavlyuchenko
  • 19Volodko
  • 20Veretilo
  • 21Pechenin

Northern Ireland

  • 1Peacock-Farrell
  • 19Smith
  • 20Cathcart
  • 5EvansBooked at 69mins
  • 3LewisBooked at 57mins
  • 17McNair
  • 8Davis
  • 13EvansSubstituted forSavilleat 69'minutes
  • 21MagennisSubstituted forDallasat 56'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 16WashingtonSubstituted forLaffertyat 72'minutesBooked at 83mins
  • 15Jones

Substitutes

  • 2McLaughlin
  • 4McAuley
  • 6Saville
  • 7Sykes
  • 9Boyce
  • 10Lafferty
  • 11Ferguson
  • 12McGovern
  • 14Dallas
  • 18Flanagan
  • 22Thompson
  • 23Hazard
Referee:
Harald Lechner

Match Stats

Home TeamBelarusAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Possession
Home56%
Away44%
Shots
Home9
Away13
Shots on Target
Home2
Away4
Corners
Home7
Away8
Fouls
Home17
Away15

Live Text

Match ends, Belarus 0, Northern Ireland 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Belarus 0, Northern Ireland 1.

Booking

Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card.

Igor Stasevich (Belarus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Michael Smith (Northern Ireland).

Attempt saved. Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

Foul by Syarhey Kislyak (Belarus).

Patrick McNair (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Oleg Veretilo (Belarus) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Yuri Kovalev.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Nikita Naumov.

Foul by Pavel Nekhajchik (Belarus).

Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Goal!

Goal! Belarus 0, Northern Ireland 1. Patrick McNair (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the centre of the goal.

Attempt missed. Yuri Kovalev (Belarus) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Igor Stasevich with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Belarus. Conceded by Jordan Jones.

Booking

Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Oleg Veretilo (Belarus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Kyle Lafferty (Northern Ireland).

Attempt missed. Michael Smith (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a set piece situation.

Foul by Oleg Veretilo (Belarus).

Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Attempt blocked. George Saville (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Michael Smith with a cross.

Attempt missed. Pavel Nekhajchik (Belarus) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Yuri Kovalev following a fast break.

Attempt missed. Michael Smith (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Pavel Nekhajchik.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Oleg Veretilo.

Attempt blocked. Jordan Jones (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.

Attempt missed. Steven Davis (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by George Saville.

Attempt blocked. Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Steven Davis.

Attempt saved. George Saville (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jordan Jones.

Hand ball by Denis Laptev (Belarus).

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Kyle Lafferty replaces Conor Washington.

Substitution

Substitution, Belarus. Oleg Veretilo replaces Igor Shitov.

Corner, Belarus. Conceded by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Attempt saved. Igor Stasevich (Belarus) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Syarhey Kislyak.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. George Saville replaces Corry Evans.

Booking

Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Igor Shitov (Belarus) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland).

Igor Shitov (Belarus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

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