Live Commentary: Greece 0-2 Northern Ireland - as it happened

Live Commentary: Greece 0-2 Northern Ireland - as it happened
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Relive all of the action of Northern Ireland's win away to Greece with Sports Mole's live commentary.

Northern Ireland maintained their 100 percent start to Euro 2016 qualifying by beating Greece 2-0 in Athens tonight.

Goals in both halves from Jamie Ward and Kyle Lafferty gave Northern Ireland a third successive victory in qualifying - the first time the nation has achieved this feat.

Below, relive all of the action with Sports Mole's live commentary of the clash in Greece.


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7.16pmGood evening ladies and gentlemen and thanks for joining Sports Mole's live text commentary of Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifier away to Greece.

7.19pmBack-to-back victories against Hungary and the Faroe Islands has seen Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland move top of Group F with six points - the first time that they had won successive qualifiers since 1968. However, this one perhaps represents their first real test of the campaign.

7.22pmDespite picking up just one point from their opening two games, Greece, under the reins of Claudio Ranieri, still have the pedigree to secure automatic qualification to the finals in Paris - and remain favourites to do so! But they're up against a man who has the opportunity to make national history, and we can't overlook this.

7.25pmYep, Michael O'Neill will etch his name into the nation's history tonight if he oversees another win, as the Northern Ireland manager goes in search of a third successive victory in a qualification campaign - a feat that has never been achieved by any of his 13 predecessors. But we're in Athens, home of a few - just a few - Greek god and goddesses, but will the football deities smile on the Northern Irish tonight? Let's wait and see.

7.27pmRight, so let's get our teeth into a bit of team news, shall we? We'll have this for you very shortly. We're both lucky this is a text commentary because I don't fancy my chances of pronouncing some of these Greek surnames correctly.

7.28pmGREECE XI: Karnezis; Vyntra, Papastathopoulos, Manolas, Torosidis; Tachtsidis, Maniatis, Karelis, Samaras; Athanasiadis, Mitroglou

7.29pmNORTHERN IRELAND XI: Carroll; C McLaughlin, McAuley, Hughes, Ferguson; Baird, Davis, Norwood, Evans, Ward; Lafferty

7.30pmGREECE SUBS: Kapino, Glykos, Stafylidis, Moras, Giannoulis, Skondras, Tziolis, Mantalos, Fortounis, Samaris, Salpingidis, Mavrias

7.31pmNORTHERN IRELAND SUBS: McGovern, Mannus, McGinn, McGivern, McCullough, Clingan, R McLaughlin, McCourt, Magennis, Reeves, McKay, Grigg

7.34pmWe'll start with Northern Ireland and let's give a doff of the cap to Gareth McAuley, who starts in defence to earn his 50th cap tonight. Well done him. Kyle Lafferty, with two goals under his belt in this campaign, continues to spearhead the attack. Corry Evans comes into midfield to replace Niall McGinn as O'Neill's only change from the win over the Faroes.

7.36pmOn to Greece now and I can tell you that Claudio Ranieri makes two changes from the 1-1 draw away to Finland, as Georgios Samaras and Kostas Mitroglou come in for Andreas Samaris and Charis Mavrias respectively. Nikos Karelis, the scorer of the Greeks' only goal in qualifying, also starts.

7.38pmAnd, how could we forget? Roy Carroll starts between the sticks for Northern Ireland. The 37-year-old ended a two-year spell with Olympiakos in the summer and returns to the Karaiskakis Stadium tonight.



7.40pmRight, we're getting close now. The players enter the field and we're about to hear the national anthems.

7.42pmIncidentally, the Northern Irish have NEVER made it to a European Championship. Ever. But they can dream this time, can't they? Two games. Two wins. Joined by Hungary, Romania, Finland and Faroe Islands in their group - along with Greece obviously; could they do it this time? In that group will they get a better chance? Probably not.

7.44pmSkippers Steven Davis - cue a snooker pun - and Vasillis Torosidis exchange some pre-match handshakes and kickoff is imminent! Let's go.

0 minKICKOFF! Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we are off in Athens, my friends. Northern Ireland, playing from left to right, get us underway.

1 minGreece enjoy a bit of possession before Maniatis's dreadful through pass gives the ball back to the visitors.

3 minConor McLaughlin looks to set Corry Evans through on that right-hand flank, but the youngster's pass is overhit and rolls out for a goal kick.

5 minGood work from Jamie Ward there, as the Derby County winger digs into his bag of tricks and ultimately wins a corner. It comes to nothing, however, as Greece avert the danger.

6 minAnother decent chance to swing in a cross now after Karelis conceded a free kick, and it's a fine delivery as Ward finds Kyle Lafferty completely unmarked in the box, but Karnezis punches it away before the Northern Irish forward can nod it home. Major questions over Greek marking there!

8 minGoal!!!!!!!!! Greece 0-1 Northern Ireland (Ward)

9 minWhat an unbelievable start for Northern Ireland, as Jamie Ward, their best player so far, sees his first-time shot trickle past Karnezis following a corner. Credit to McAuley, who got the slightest of touches from Evans's corner.

11 minGreece look for a swift riposte but the Northern Irish defending well so far - not that they need to because the Greeks haven't posed much threat thus far.

13 minReally good defending my Gareth McAuley, producing a diving header to cut out Torosidis's cross which looked to be heading for the head of Mitroglou. Excellent work.

15 minSUBSTITUTION: Claudio Ranieri forced into an early change as Vyntra looks to have taken a knock and the left-back is replaced by Kostas Stafylidis. Ranieri's plans are going out the window here.

17 minSHOT! Athanasiaidis registers Greece's first shot of the night, but it's a speculative effort that flies wide of Roy Carroll's goal.

20 minGood pressing from Steven Davis, who really has not stopped running all night, but it's unlikely that he will sustain this effort for the full 90 minutes.

22 minGreece want a penalty but there's nothing doing. Oliver Norwood brought down Torosidis in the box but the referee has ruled that he won the ball. It looked a dodgy challenge, it has to be said.

25 minThe Greece fans are up in arms that Northern Ireland didn't put the ball out of play after Samaras went down after clashing heads with McAuley. He's back up now, rubbing the side of his head but he'll survive.

26 minNo fluency in Greece attack here at all. They've not gelled at all. Ranieri must be worried.

28 minBOOKING! Kyle Lafferty is the first name in the referee's notebook after being booked for a very, very soft offence. His arm seemed to brush the face of Sokratis, who went down like a sack of spuds to earn his Northern Irish counterpart a yellow card. Harsh.

30 minChance! First real statement by the Greeks as Maniatis plays a superb ball over the top to find the advancing Athanasiadis, who snuck in behind Shane Ferguson but his control wasn't clean enough to go through with Roy Carroll. Better from Greece, though.

32 minBOOKING! Samaras goes in the book now for a late, rash challenge on Corry Evans. If Lafferty's earlier foul was worthy of a yellow then that was a red, to be fair.

33 minClose! It probably should be 1-1 here, my friends. Samaras plays Karelis through on goal, but Roy Carroll, despite his 37 years, is lightning quick as he races out to meet him and Karelis puts it wide after trying to lift it over the Northern Irish stopper. Big miss.

36 minOh dear, these Greek lads just aren't on the same page here. Karelis does brilliantly to swivel Aaron Hughes's challenge on the edge of the box, but instead of shooting tries to clip the ball to Samaras, who is at least five yards offside. Have a shot, pal!

39 minDespite Greece coming into a bit more, Northern Ireland are comfortable enough. Roy Carroll yet to make a save, and Michael O'Neill will feel very confident about his side's chances of preserving their lead. Still, about six minutes left in this half.

41 minHuge defensive header from Conor McLaughin there, as the right-back nods the ball away to prevent Samaras from heading into what would have been an empty net. Massive contribution there.

43 minWhat a ball this is from Kostas Stafylidis. The Fulham left-back swings in a peach of a cross but Mitroglou just misses it. Overall Greece have done well since going behind. They need to carry this momentum into the second half.

45 minTwo minutes added on.

8.32pmHALF-TIME: Greece 0-1 Northern Ireland

8.33pmSo, there we have it. Jamie Ward's early opener still the difference between the sides. Greece have been poor, in truth, but there were a few signs that they'll give it their all in the second half. Watch this space.

8.37pmAnd, if not for the crossbar, Northern Ireland would be going into the break two goals to the good! Lafferty did really well, showed great strength to hold off Manolas before striking against the bar. It was such a difficult angle, to be fair to him. Still, plenty of positives for Northern Ireland.

8.40pmAs it stands, Michael O'Neill's side are EIGHT points clear of Greece, the top seeds in Group F. And O'Neill is halfway to becoming the first Northern Ireland manager to win three successive qualifiers! No short of incentive for the visitors in this second half.

45 minSUBSTITUTION: Looks like Ranieri is making his second change as Andreas Samaris replaces Athanasiadis ahead of this second half.

45 minRESTART: Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we're back underway in Athens, ladies and gents.

47 minReally good start to this second half by Northern Ireland but they couldn't fashion a real goalscoring chance out of that spell of possession.

49 minGreece win a free kick in a very decent position now after Steven Davis conceded a foul, and it's going to be Samaris...

49 min.........But it's a tame delivery, and Davis atones for conceding the free kick.

50 minGoal!!!!! Greece 0-2 Northern Ireland (Lafferty)

51 minWe're on the brink of history folks, and what a fantastic goal by Kyle Lafferty. He knocks the ball past last man Kostas Stafylidis before racing up to catch it and casually slotting past Karenzis. Superb goal, and one that takes Northern Ireland ever closer to a third successive win in qualifying for the first time ever!

54 minSHOT! Clever flick from Karelis forces Roy Carroll into his first save of the match now. They've not done enough, Greece.

56 minWorrying sight for Michael O'Neill and co. now as Kyle Lafferty receives a bit of attention for an injury. He has left the field with medics but it is unclear if he's coming off or not.

57 minNope, all good for Northern Ireland as Lafferty finds his way back on to the field.

59 minSUBSTITUTION: Michael O'Neill is happy enough to defend this lead now, as defender Ryan McGivern replaces goalscorer Jamie Ward. Worryingly for Claudio Ranieri, he's only got one more sub left.

61 minSHOT! Looks like Greece are running out of ideas here, my friends, as Karelis launches an outrageously ambitious effort which flies wide of Carroll's goal. Poor decision. He is, however, the only Greek to find the net in this campaign so maybe he can be forgiven.

64 minCLOSE! Greece just offer a little reminder now that Northern Ireland still have work to do as Tachtsidis saw his goal-bound shot palmed away by Carroll. Probably as close as the hosts have come.

67 minLafferty has made himself an absolute nuisance this evening and has really given Kostas Manolas - who rejected Arsenal for Roma in the summer - a major headache tonight. Fantastic performance.

70 minCHANCE! Torosidis swings in a fine cross for Karelis to header wide of Carroll's post once more. They've had one or two decent chances but it looks like they're going to pay the penalty for missing.

72 minSUBSTITUTION: Kyle Lafferty makes way for Magennis for this last 18 minutes or so as O'Neill looks to batten down the hatches.

75 minI'm going to go out on a limb and say Greece aren't going to turn this around, folks. Their attack is nowhere near sharp enough to cut through a solid Northern Ireland defense thus far.

78 minSUBSTITUTION: One last sub to tell you about now as Ben Reeves replaces Shane Ferguson, who has been excellent throughout the night.

81 minWe're into the final 10 minutes now and Northern Ireland still looking very comfortable. Tachtsidis's free kick just goes out for a goal kick to plenty of boos by the Greek fans. They're not happy at all.

84 minThere's been no final whistle yet but try telling the Greek fans, thousands of whom have already left the stadium. Can you blame them? No, it's been a shocking performance from Greece.

87 minKostas Mitroglou headers well, well, well wide now in an effort that just about sums up his evening. Samaris is booked now for a cynical challenge on Davis, who did really well and looked to surge forward.

90 minTHREE MINUTES ADDED ON: If Greece were a dog you'd have to put them down and out of their misery. It's not long now.

9.36pmFULL-TIME: GREECE 0-2 NORTHERN IRELAND

9.37pmThat's it, folks. Northern Ireland win three successive qualifiers for the first time since, well, ever! Top marks and fair play to them.

9.38pmBrutal from Greece, it has to be said. But stick around for analysis and player ratings on this one very shortly on a night of history for Northern Ireland in Athens.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill on the touchline during the World Cup qualifier against Portugal on September 6, 2013
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