World Cup Qualifying - European - Group C
Northern Ireland4Azerbaijan0

World Cup 2018: Northern Ireland 4-0 Azerbaijan

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Brunt and McAuley savour Northern Ireland's win over Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland replaced Azerbaijan in second place in Group C thanks to an impressive World Cup qualifying win at a rain-lashed Windsor Park.

Kyle Lafferty fired home the opener in the 27th minute and Gareth McAuley headed in from a Chris Brunt free-kick to make it 2-0 before half-time.

Conor McLaughlin headed his first international goal before Brunt claimed his second goal for his country.

NI are second on goal difference, five points behind group leaders Germany.

West Brom's Brunt was back in the NI team for the first time in 13 months, having missed Euro 2016 because of a serious knee injury.

"To score four goals and not concede any is a good result, especially against Azerbaijan," said Brunt. "They were flying high in the group."

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill described the win as "huge" and praised the fans for their backing.

"The mood is very good, the players love playing here, the crowd were fantastic again and we can look forward to March now," he said.

O'Neill's side play Croatia in a friendly in Belfast on Tuesday before taking on Norway in their next qualifier on 26 March.

Azerbaijan were on the back foot for much of the game, but they threatened early in the second half when substitute Deniz Yilmaz was denied by the advancing Michael McGovern in the NI goal.

Germany maintained their 100% record with an 8-0 hammering of San Marino while the Czech Republic beat Norway 2-1 to go fourth.

How they stand in the group

Northern Ireland's pressing game

O'Neill seems to have got a few tips from watching Liverpool and Tottenham, as the high press was implemented with success.

Indeed, Azerbaijan were never able to settle on the ball, with Northern Ireland forcing their opponents into mistake after mistake.

The visitors boasted a record of no goals conceded in three qualifiers, but their defence crumbled under relentless pressure.

NI's passing, particularly in the first half, was crisp and accurate while the all-important finishing made this a performance to remember.

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O'Neill: NI players believe they can qualify for World Cup

Two up top

O'Neill usually prefers a lone target man in attack but, in the absence of Jamie Ward, he went with Kyle Lafferty and Josh Magennis as a front two.

It worked a treat, with Magennis working hard in the right channel while Lafferty occupied a central position.

Lafferty swivelled to drive home his 20th goal for Northern Ireland, showing that he belongs on the international stage despite struggling with Norwich.

O'Neill may revert to his favoured formation when Ward recovers from injury but at least he knows he has a tried and tested alternative.

Man of the match - Chris Brunt

Chris Brunt recovered from a head injury to score his first goal for Northern Ireland
Brunt scored his second goal for Northern Ireland, despite having earlier taken a knock to the head

After recovering from a clash of heads, Brunt showed what Northern Ireland have been missing for the past eight months.

A trademark free-kick was headed home by McAuley and he arrowed a shot low and hard into the bottom corner to complete an excellent display.

What's next

O'Neill's men play Croatia in a Belfast friendly on Tuesday and their next qualifier is at home to Norway on 26 March.

Key stats

  • At 36 years and 341 days, Gareth McAuley is the oldest scorer in European World Cup qualifying this campaign.
  • Northern Ireland have scored 11 goals in their last three home games.
  • Chris Brunt registered two assists in this game after just one in his previous 22 games for Northern Ireland.
  • Northern Ireland have kept five consecutive clean sheets at Windsor Park

Line-ups

Northern Ireland

  • 1McGovern
  • 2McLaughlin
  • 4McAuley
  • 5Evans
  • 11Brunt
  • 13EvansBooked at 74minsSubstituted forMcNairat 81'minutes
  • 16Norwood
  • 8Davis
  • 3FergusonBooked at 72minsSubstituted forMcGinnat 73'minutes
  • 10LaffertySubstituted forGriggat 62'minutes
  • 21Magennis

Substitutes

  • 6Hodson
  • 7McGinn
  • 9Grigg
  • 12Mannus
  • 14Boyce
  • 15McGivern
  • 17McNair
  • 18Hughes
  • 19Paton
  • 20Lund
  • 22Flanagan
  • 23Carson

Azerbaijan

  • 1Aghayev
  • 3Mirzabekov
  • 5Medvedev
  • 6Huseynov
  • 21Dasdamirov
  • 19Amirguliyev
  • 2Garayev
  • 16MakhmudovBooked at 38minsSubstituted forNazarovat 70'minutesBooked at 84mins
  • 22Ismayilov
  • 20SheydaevSubstituted forYilmazat 45'minutes
  • 10GurbanovSubstituted forRamazanovat 75'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Pashaev
  • 7Oglu Abdullayev
  • 8Pascual Israfilov
  • 9Alasgarov
  • 11Yilmaz
  • 12Nazirov
  • 13Nazarov
  • 14Mammadov
  • 15Abisov
  • 17Quliyev
  • 18Ramazanov
  • 23Agayev
Referee:
Clément Turpin
Attendance:
18,404

Match Stats

Home TeamNorthern IrelandAway TeamAzerbaijan
Possession
Home39%
Away61%
Shots
Home10
Away8
Shots on Target
Home7
Away1
Corners
Home5
Away4
Fouls
Home11
Away7

Live Text

Match ends, Northern Ireland 4, Azerbaijan 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 4, Azerbaijan 0.

Attempt missed. Aghabala Ramazanov (Azerbaijan) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Dimitrij Nazarov.

Offside, Northern Ireland. Steven Davis tries a through ball, but Josh Magennis is caught offside.

Foul by Maksim Medvedev (Azerbaijan).

William Grigg (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Rahid Amirguliyev (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland).

Offside, Northern Ireland. Chris Brunt tries a through ball, but Steven Davis is caught offside.

Offside, Azerbaijan. Rahid Amirguliyev tries a through ball, but Deniz Yilmaz is caught offside.

Dimitrij Nazarov (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Paddy McNair (Northern Ireland).

Booking

Dimitrij Nazarov (Azerbaijan) is shown the yellow card.

Goal!

Goal! Northern Ireland 4, Azerbaijan 0. Chris Brunt (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner.

Attempt saved. Steven Davis (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Niall McGinn.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Paddy McNair replaces Corry Evans.

Attempt missed. Deniz Yilmaz (Azerbaijan) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Rahid Amirguliyev.

Offside, Azerbaijan. Dimitrij Nazarov tries a through ball, but Afran Ismayilov is caught offside.

Foul by Arif Dasdamirov (Azerbaijan).

William Grigg (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) because of an injury.

Substitution

Substitution, Azerbaijan. Aghabala Ramazanov replaces Ruslan Gurbanov.

Booking

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

Rahid Amirguliyev (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Corry Evans (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Niall McGinn replaces Shane Ferguson.

Booking

Shane Ferguson (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Magomed Mirzabekov (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Shane Ferguson (Northern Ireland).

Arif Dasdamirov (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Substitution, Azerbaijan. Dimitrij Nazarov replaces Emin Makhmudov.

Goal!

Goal! Northern Ireland 3, Azerbaijan 0. Conor McLaughlin (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Oliver Norwood with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Gara Garayev.

Afran Ismayilov (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Chris Brunt (Northern Ireland).

Corner, Azerbaijan. Conceded by Corry Evans.

Attempt blocked. Emin Makhmudov (Azerbaijan) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Arif Dasdamirov.

Kamran Aghayev (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

goal

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France431072510
2Sweden42116337
3Netherlands31115324
4Bulgaria3102510-53
5Belarus302125-32
6Luxembourg301246-21

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Switzerland33007349
2Portugal3201122106
3Hungary31114314
4Faroe Islands311126-44
5Latvia310214-33
6Andorra300319-80

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany44001601612
2Northern Ireland42118267
3Azerbaijan421124-27
4Czech Rep412124-25
5Norway410357-23
6San Marino4004117-160

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Serbia32108447
2R. of Ireland32106337
3Wales31207345
4Austria31116604
5Georgia301224-21
6Moldova3003110-90

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland4310105510
2Montenegro42119457
3Denmark42027526
4Romania41216425
5Armenia4103410-63
6Kazakhstan4022311-82

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England431060610
2Slovenia42204228
3Slovakia42027256
4Lithuania412157-25
5Scotland411268-24
6Malta4004110-90

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain3210111107
2Italy32107437
3Albania32014316
4Israel32015506
5Macedonia300347-30
6Liechtenstein3003112-110

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium3300130139
2Greece33008179
3Bos-Herze32017436
4Estonia310247-33
5Cyprus300307-70
6Gibraltar3003114-130

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Croatia32108177
2Iceland32106337
3Ukraine31206335
4Turkey302135-22
5Finland301235-21
6Kosovo3012110-91
View full World Cup Qualifying - European tables

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