N Ireland 4-0 Faroe Islands

Goals from Aaron Hughes, Steven Davis and Pat McCourt (2) gave Northern Ireland a valuable Euro 2012 qualifying win over the Faroe Islands in Belfast.

Hughes pounced on hesitant defending to stab home his first international goal in 77 appearances in the fifth minute.

A beautifully controlled finish by Rangers midfielder Davis made it 2-0 in the 66th minute.

McCourt then scored two superb goals to complete the win, which lifts NI up to third place in Group C.

Celtic star McCourt skilfully started and finished a classy move on 71 minutes and then, near the end, lit up Windsor Park with a magical chip over Faroes keeper Jakup Mikkelsen for 4-0.

Suddenly, there was a feel-good factor among the Belfast fans and relief for boss Nigel Worthington that potentially tricky opponents had been swept aside.

Northern Ireland, confident a victory would revive their chances of qualifying for the Euro finals for the first time, made an impressive start and were rewarded with Hughes' early goal.

It stemmed from a Sammy Clingan corner from the left-hand side which fell to Gareth McAuley well beyond the far post.

The West Brom defender played the ball into the goalmouth and, when the Faroes struggled to get the ball clear, Hughes pounced with a snapshot which went in off an upright.

It was a huge boost for Worthington's men and their first home goal in the Group C campaign.

NI v FAROES FACTS

  • Aaron Hughes, the only man in the squad to have played for Northern Ireland in the 1990s, had been 33/1 to score the first goal
  • Faroe Islands goalkeeper Jakup Mikkelsen celebrates his 41st birthday on Sunday

But they failed to build on that and the Faroes responded with a couple of decent attacks to warn the home side that victory was not a formality.

Newcastle's Johan Simun Edmundsson forced a low save from Lee Camp and Christian Holst fired wide.

Northern Ireland badly needed some breathing space and they got it with two goals in five minutes in the second half.

Davis struck his goal sweetly from 25 yards after substitute Niall McGinn had cut in from the right wing to set it up.

The home side went three up as the impressive McCourt weaved his way to a first international goal.

McCourt had already been selected as man of the match when he nonchalantly chipped his wonder goal to make it 4-0.

Northern Ireland: Camp, Baird, McAuley, Hughes, J Evans, Clingan, Davis, McCann, Corry Evans, Healy, McCourt.

Subs: Mannus, Cathcart, McGivern, Thompson, Ward, McGinn, Gorman.

Faroe Islands: Mikkelsen, Naes, Johan Davidsen, Baldvinsson, Gregersen, Benjaminsen, Udsen, Olsen, Holst, Edmundsson, Elttor.

Subs: Torgard, Mouritsen, Danielsen, Viljormur Davidsen, Faeroe, Hansen, Lokin.

Referee: Emer Aleckovic (Bosnia)