Ian Baraclough recorded his first victory as coach of Northern Ireland in 90 minutes as he won 3-0 in a friendly against Malta in Austria.
After Jordan Jones capitalized on a defensive error just two minutes later, quick goals from Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann in the second half effectively ended the game as a contest.
It wasn’t always convincing against a team ranked 175th in the world and facing a host of pre-match issues, but the experienced team chosen by Baraclough ultimately got the job done in a hastily-arranged match after a trip. expected in Turkey fell victim. to the pandemic.
Baraclough had a number of new faces in his 22-man squad for the game, but they were all forced to wait on the bench as he picked a strong side, including Stuart Dallas as captain, Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair and Josh Magennis.
Meanwhile, Maltese coach Devis Mangia had expressed concerns about the fitness of his squad, made up almost entirely of domestic players at a time the Maltese Premier League has been suspended since March.
And there was certainly a great degree of rust in the terrible clearance played by Ferdinando Apap, once from Sheffield FC in the Northern Premier League, as he inadvertently played Jones on the edge of the box with barely 90 seconds.
The Rangers winger duly punished the error by shooting past Henry Bonello for his first international goal.
Malta: Bonello, Apap, Agius, Shaw, Mbong, Kristensen, Teuma, Camenzuli, Satariano, Dimech, Montebello.
Submarines used: Vella, Rowen Muscat, Farrugia, Borg, Xuereb.
North Ireland:Peacock-Farrell, McNair, Cathcart, Brown, McGinn, McCann, Dallas, Thompson, Whyte, Jones, Magennis.
Submarines used: Bradley, McCalmont, Saville, Boyce, Ferguson, Charles.
It was Northern Ireland’s first goal in the first half in their last 10 internationals, but any hope that it could trigger a 45-minute blunt score would be dashed.
Malta offered chances, with another defensive confusion between Kurt Shaw and Teddy Teuma almost letting Whyte in before Shaw fouled the Hull forward on loan to concede a penalty.
However, Magennis opted for power over the field and saw his shot on goal saved by Bonello.
As Northern Ireland missed chances, Malta gradually progressed into the game, threatening as Luke Montebello hit the side net before Shaun Dimech pushed far.
Malta had the advantage in possession, and Northern Ireland struggled to charge what they had as they repeatedly ran into traffic or got caught offside as their opponents defended in numbers. and then sought to break.
Dallas, the team captain for the second time, had been largely unable to influence the game from a central position, but secured an assist when Northern Ireland doubled their lead seven minutes into the match. second half.
Shaw was only able to clear Jones’ cross until the Leeds man, who quickly fed Whyte to shoot at home.
And Dallas was involved in the third moments later when his film found McNair’s run, which fed McCann to complete the job.
Tempo dropped as substitutions started, with Accington striker Dion Charles winning a second cap while there was a late start for Liverpool defender Conor Bradley, 17, who entered alongside Alfie McCalmont with five minutes to go.
Baraclough will know that such a performance wouldn’t have been enough if the game against Turkey had gone ahead, and more will be needed when they face Ukraine for Euro 2020 in Dnipro on Thursday.
But with the World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Switzerland looming in September and after a long wait for both a win and a goal – this is the first time they’ve had more than one. ‘one in a game during his tenure – Baraclough will surely shoot a lot of result.
Baraclough: the team ticked most of the boxes
The boss of Northern Ireland Ian baraclough: “It was very nice. The way we started both halves is something we discussed, we wanted to start quickly and put the opposition on the back foot and we certainly did.
“I was happy to have scored three goals, and obviously to create the chances and finally get the rewards. And to keep a clean sheet as well. The team as a whole ticked most of the boxes.
“Looking at it, I think we’ve played better in other games and didn’t get the awards, so I’m glad we got the awards and can enjoy a lot of those performances.”
- Northern Ireland won their first victory since October 2019 against the Czech Republic, ending a streak of 13 international matches without a win (5n., 8n.).
- This is Northern Ireland’s biggest win since September 2018 against Israel (also 3-0) and their biggest away win since September 2017 against San Marino (3-0). It was also their biggest away win in a friendly against a European nation since a 3-0 victory over Malta in March 2000.
- Malta has never beaten Northern Ireland in an international meeting, with today the eighth time that the two nations have faced each other in all competitions (D2 L6).
- Northern Ireland missed their last two penalties (excluding penalties), with Josh Magennis missing against Malta today and Steven Davis against the Netherlands in November 2019.
- There were only 103 seconds between Northern Ireland’s second goal scored by Gavin Whyte and Alistair McCann’s third.
- Jordan Jones scored his first goal for Northern Ireland in his 12th senior appearance for his country, while Alistair McCann also scored his first for the nation in his 5th senior game.