Northern Ireland 2 Belarus 1: Magennis sends O'Neill's men top of Group C

Northern Ireland moved top of Group C with a 2-1 victory over Belarus in Euro 2020 qualifying, Josh Magennis' late goal the difference.

Josh Magennis celebrates with Liam Boyce after scoring Northern Ireland's winner against Belarus in a Euro 2020 qualifier Group C match.   -  Getty Images

Josh Magennis came off the bench to fire Northern Ireland to the top of Group C with a late winner in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Belarus in Euro 2020 qualification.

Northern Ireland had controlled proceedings at Windsor Park but it looked set to be a frustrating evening until Magennis popped up with three minutes remaining. His close-range finish was a rare bright moment in the second half after Igor Stasevich's deflected strike had cancelled out Jonny Evans' third international goal in the opening 45 minutes.

Victory moves Michael O'Neill's side, which beat Estonia in its opener, to the top of the group after Netherlands was beaten by Germany in Amsterdam.

READ | Germany leaves it late against Netherlands as Schulz strike settles classic

Lone striker Kyle Lafferty cut a frustrated figure as he failed to find room to latch onto enticing deliveries from midfield and his only chance of note came from long range. However, that shot – which was pushed wide – led to the game's opening goal, Belarus unable to deal with a corner routine as Evans headed home from Steven Davis' front-post flick.

Falling behind seemed to spark Belarus into life and three minutes later it was level as Stasevich's shot clipped Stuart Dallas and looped over the stranded Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Half chances fell the way of Paddy McNair, George Saville and Lafferty but they were all spurned as Belarus defended resolutely.

There was nothing it could do about Magennis' winner, though, as the Bolton Wanderers forward tapped in Stuart Dallas' low cross.

 

What does it mean? 

With Germany and Netherlands in Group C, Northern Ireland knew getting points against Estonia and Belarus would be crucial – particularly given its first four games were against the latter two nations. After the opening two matches it has six points, giving it hope of challenging for a top-two berth.

Magennis makes a difference

Super-sub Magennis was a handful during his 22-minute cameo, capped with a cool finish after coming in from the flank to score his fifth international goal.

Lafferty's goal woe continues

Lafferty led the line again for Northern Ireland but once again he failed to find the back of the net, his goal drought stretching to 14 games – a run that goes all the way back to November 2016.

Key Opta Facts 

- Northern Ireland has won each of its two games against Belarus, including a 3-0 victory in the only previous meeting between the two sides back in May 2016.
- Belarus has lost consecutive games in all competitions for the first time since November 2017 (a run of five).
- Northern Ireland has lost just one of its last 12 European Championship qualifiers (W8 D3 L1) and is unbeaten in eight such games since a 2-0 defeat against Romania back in November 2014 (P8 W5 D3 L0).
- None of Northern Ireland's last 18 home games in all competitions has finished in a draw (W13 D0 L5), since a 1-1 draw with Hungary in September 2015.
- Belarus has conceded six goals in its last two matches (four versus Netherlands and two versus Northern Ireland) – more than it conceded in its previous 11 games combined in all competitions (five).

 

What’s next?

In June, Northern Ireland travels to Estonia before the return match with Belarus in Minsk three days later. Ahead of the visit of O'Neill's men, Belarus has the daunting prospect of hosting Germany.