MX23RW : Saturday, September 22 00:02:04

Live Commentary: Northern Ireland 2-0 Faroe Islands - as it happened

Relive Sports Mole's live text coverage of Northern Ireland's comfortable 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Northern Ireland made it two wins from two in their Euro 2016 Group F qualifying campaign courtesy of a 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park.

Gareth McAuley fired his side ahead early on in Belfast, ghosting in at the back post unmarked to tap the ball home, before Kyle Lafferty extended the lead shortly after with a cool finish inside the area.

Totally against the run of play, the visitors were gifted the opportunity to pull a goal back from the spot, although Roy Carroll managed to keep out Frodi Benjaminsen's effort.

Despite the Green and White Army being unable to add to their advantage in a somewhat quiet second half, they managed to see out the victory to climb to the top of the early standings.

Relive how the game unfolded with Sports Mole's live text coverage below.

7.02pmHello and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Northern Ireland and the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park. The hosts will be looking to build on their 2-1 victory away at Hungary last time out, while Lars Olsen's charges have yet to get off the mark in Group F at this early stage.

7.03pmKickoff in Belfast is less than 45 minutes away, so let's get straight to it and take a look at how these two teams line up this evening...


STARTING XI: Carroll, McLaughlin, McAuley, Baird, McGinn, Davis, Lafferty, Norwood, Ferguson, Hughes, Ward

SUBSTITUTES: McGovern, Mannus, McGivern, McCullough, McKay, Evans, Clingan, McCourt, McClaughlin, Magennis, Reeves

7.07pmThe big news for the hosts then is that Chris Brunt misses out through injury. The West Bromwich Albion midfielder has also been ruled out for the match against Greece next week, which is a huge blow for the Green and White army.

7.10pmAberdeen winger Niall McGinn's impact from the bench in that 2-1 victory over Hungary, in which he scored one and set up another, has seen him handed a starting spot this evening. Corry Evans drops down to the bench, meanwhile, and namesake Jonny misses out completely having been struck by injury in the week.

7.13pmBen Reeves has been made to wait for his debut a little while longer, with the MK Dons man also among the substitutes for Northern Ireland. Elsewhere Paddy McNair, who was expected to be called up in the place of Manchester United teammate Jonny Evans, is also ruled out through injury.


STARTING XI: Nielsen, Naes, Davidsen, Gregersen, Nattestad, Hansson, Benjaminsen, Holst, Klettskard, Justinussen, Edmundsson

SUBSTITUTES: Thomasen, Gestson, Hanssen, Serensen, Mellemgaard, Baldvinsson, Vatnhamar, Olsen, Bartalstovu, Djurhuus, A. Hansen, B. Hansen

7.20pmThe Faroe Islands are among the lowest ranked sides taking part in qualifying for Euro 2016, with a squad lacking experience of football among Europe's major leagues at club level. The minnows' most recognisable player is goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen, who mad one appearance for Manchester City back in April 2012, making him the only player in the nation's history to play in the Premier League.

7.22pmA little over 20 minutes to go until kickoff now at Windsor Park...

7.25pmWell way may only be one game in, but Northern Ireland are certainly looking good as things stand in Group F. A win against Hungary in their opening game has given Michael O'Neil's side a real boost, and they will be looking to record their first back-to-back victories in qualifying since 1968 this evening.

7.28pmThey are in a group alongside Finland, Romania, Hungary, Greece and of course the Faroe Islands, with the top two sides qualifying automatically for a place at Euro 2016 in France. The team finishing in third will enter a playoff, meanwhile, meaning that it really is all to play for this time around the the Irish.

7.31pmThey will certainly have to improve from their showing in recent campaigns, with a case in point being their relatively poor results in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, where they won just one game. Results have steadily improved, however, and the Green and White Army recently moved up 24 places in FIFA's rankings to 71 in the world.

7.34pmIt is a different story for tonight's visitors, meanwhile, with the Faroe Islands currently down in 179th place in the latest standings, making them a true minnow at this level. Having initially been handed UEFA approval in 1990, results have been hard to come by on a regular basis in the past 24 years.

7.36pmThe Faroe Islands did enjoy a piece of history early this year, though, scoring four goals in a match for the first time in their history in a 4-1 victory against Gibraltar back in March. In terms of competitive matches it is a different matter completely, however, having failed to pick up a single point in their last 24 outings.

7.38pmLess than 10 minutes to go before kickoff in Belfast...

7.40pmIncidentally, there will be just 10,500 fans inside Windsor Park this evening due to redevelopment work which has seen the capacity reduced with just two stands remaining intact. Northern Ireland supporters always get behind their players, though, so we can expect the atmosphere to sound as good as ever this evening.

7.42pmPREVIOUS MEETINGS: The Faroe Islands competitive record may not make great reading, but they did manage to hold Northern Ireland to a 1-1 draw four years ago. Then manager Nigel Worthington managed to avenge that poor result by leading his side to a 4-0 triumph in the return fixture.

7.44pmPREDICTION: I can't see anything other than a Northern Ireland win tonight, particularly with the side full of confidence following the away victory in Hungary last time out. 3-0.

7.46pmThe national anthems have just finished belting out around this two-tier stadium, with kickoff now just a minute or so away. This game provides Northern Ireland with a brilliant opportunity to top the group standings this evening - on goal difference, at least - by sticking a few goals past their opponents and recording back-to-back wins in the process.

0 minKICKOFF! Here we go then, as Northern Ireland get us underway at Windsor Park.

2 minPositive start from the hosts who are looking to get at their opponents from the off. No chances created in the opening stages, though, as it's just a case of weighing up the Faroes.

5 minOFF THE LINE! A cross into the box from out on the left wasn't dealt with by the Faroe Islands, although Oliver Norwood couldn't quite direct his headed effort home at the back post. Moments later another ball came into the area, this time from Jamie Ward on the opposite flank, and McAuley say his header cleared away off the line. The linesman had his flag up, but it looked to be for an infringement after the initial effort.


7 minNorwood's corner kick was flicked on at the near post, and McAuley was left free at the back to tap home from a few yards out to get his side off to a flyer. The hosts really need to push on from this rather than sitting back.

9 minAll the action has taken place in the Faroe Islands' attacking third so far. Relentless pressure from Northern Ireland who can very much smell blood right now. Every time the ball enters the box there just seems to be mass panic from the visiting side.

11 minBoth full-backs are situated high up the field at the moment for the hosts. They are tasked with providing the crosses for Kyle Lafferty and Co. to get on the end of. So far so good.

13 minCLOSE! Lafferty comes within a few inches from doubling his side's advantage. Shane Ferguson whipped in a delightful ball for the striker, who struggled to make enough contact to guide in beyond Nielsen.

14 minSHOT! Former Newcastle United reserve-team player Edmundsson manages to get away the visiting side's first shot of the evening, scuffing the ball wide of the target. A reminder that one goal may not be enough this evening for Northern Ireland.

15 minYELLOW CARD! Jonas Tor Naes is shown the game's first booking following a challenge on Ferguson. The Newcastle man was left in a little discomfort, but he looks as though he will shake it off.

17 minSAVE! McLaughlin managed to latch onto a corner kick at the near post, flicking the ball goalwards which forced Nielsen down low to keep deny the full-back. It was a decent attempt, and once more the Faroe Islands came undone from a cross into the box.

19 minJamie Ward floating into wide areas to loft some crosses into the box, although the hosts have so far been unable to build on that early goal. It really is relentless pressure at the moment though, with a second surely just minutes away.


21 minI called it. Northern Ireland have well and truly bossed the opening 20 minutes of the game, and they are good value for their second goal. Once more the opportunity came about thanks to a cross into the box from Ferguson, with Lafferty just losing his marker to tap home from close range in a central position. So, so simple.

23 minSAVES! What an unbelievable save from Nielsen! Lafferty was left all alone inside the box yet again, although his header from close range was somehow kept out by the former Manchester City stopper. He had next to no time to react, but he got across to his left to push the ball out of play. A shot from McGinn moments later was a little easier for Neilsen to keep out, with the strike from range lacking any real power.

25 minSHOT! A roar of "attack, attack, attack" belts around Windsor Park as Northern Ireland continue their domination. Lafferty is really enjoying himself at the moment, and he gets away from the Faroe Islands' two centre-backs to get on the end of a cross from the right, although his volleyed effort was well over the target in the end.

27 minFor the first time in the game the visitors have enjoyed a couple of minutes on the ball. A chance for a temporary breather for their back line who have been dragged all over the place in the opening half an hour or so.

29 minWell that didn't last long. Some good work down the left from McGinn allows Northern Ireland to press once more, and his swerving cross into the box had to be punched away by Nielsen. That was heading for the back of the net if not for the keeper's intervention.

30 minSHOT! The Green and White Army get in their 14th attempt on goal with just 30 minutes of the game gone, and this time it is Steven Davis who joins the party. He was teed up beautifully on the edge of the area, although the Southampton man failed to keep his shot down with the ball flying over the bar.

33 minSHOT! A burst of pace from Ward allow Lafferty to try his luck from a headed effort inside the box once more, although this time he failed to find the target. That is now 20 attempts from the hosts in 33 minutes. How long before the third goal arrives?

35 minThe home side's back line have had next to nothing to do all evening, with their opponents being restricted to just one wayward effort so far. Goal difference may make a huge difference in what is likely to be a competitive group, so keeping a clean sheet will be vital this evening.


36 minPENALTY SAVED! What a save from Roy Carroll to deny Benjaminsen from the spot. The penalty was initially awarded when Ferguson brought down Edmundsson inside the box, although the Faroe Islands failed to make the most of the opportunity. Carroll managed to get a solid hand to Benjaminsen's attempt to knock it onto the post and eventually away from danger.

38 minWell that would have been so unfair on Northern Ireland had their lead been cut to just one goal. They could have had six or seven in this first half, and that is no exaggeration. Edmundsson rather bought the penalty in what was just his side's second attack all game, although the referee didn't really have too much choice but to award the spot kick. Credit to Carroll, though, who has barely touched the ball this evening up until that point.

40 minA big save from the experienced stopper...

42 minSince that goal the visitors have come out of their shell a little more, which has curtailed the amount of shots Northern Ireland have had on goal as a result. Three minutes to go in the first half at Windsor Park.

45 minNorthern Ireland continuing to press as we reach the climax of the opening 45 minutes. They have done so well to harry their opponents off the ball so far, and have largely reaped the rewards.

45+1 minSAVE! A great strike from Norwood from range calls Nielsen into action once more. The ball was swerving everywhere, but the keeper managed to push it behind in what is surely the last meaningful attack of the half.


8.36pmIt's all very comfortable for Northern Ireland so far on the whole, who take a two-goal lead into half time. In truth the game should have been put beyond reach, although if not for Carroll's penalty save then their advantage would be extremely slender right now.

8.39pmYou fancy the hosts to get a few more goals in the second half on the basis of what we have seen so far, although the Faroe Islands showed just a glimpse of what they are capable of by winning that pen. If they can pull a goal back that it changes the whole complexion of the contest, of course, but I don't think Northern Ireland will have too many problems in that sense.

8.42pmThe story of the game so far has been all about crosses into the box. Lafferty and McAuley have taken advantage of some rather laxed defending to add their names to the scoresheet, with Ferguson and McLaughlin in particular enjoying plenty of space down their respective flanks.

8.44pmIt really should have been more, though...

8.47pmUPDATE! Elsewhere in Group F this evening, Greece are winning away at Finland, while Romania and Hungary finished all square at 1-1. It means that as things stand Northern Ireland top the standings. Long, long way to go yet before supporters start booking flights to France, of course.

45 minSECOND HALF! The visitors get the game back underway. They instantly push forward in a sign that they mean business following a poor first half, yet possession is soon lost. Normal service resumed from the off.

47 minNorthern Ireland may have to be on their guard a little more this half, as with just two minutes of the second 45 played, Carroll is forced to come out of his goal to collect a rare cross into the box. That said, the first effort of the half comes from Ward whose strike lacked any real venom to get the better of Nielsen.

50 minThe hosts continuing from where they left off in the first half, forcing their opponents into making mistakes on the rare occasions that they have hold of the ball. They have not let their guard slip once this evening.

52 minNot for the first time tonight a cross into the box is not dealt with by the Faroe Islands, although Lafferty's resulting strike from a central position fails to find its way through a crowd of bodies, with the ball deflecting away.

53 minSHOT! A nice little one-two with Ward on the edge of the area allows Norwood to get a shot away at goal, which wasn't hit as well as he would have liked, moving away from goal and failing to test Nielsen.

55 minNORTHERN IRELAND SUBSTITUTION: Goalscorer Gareth McAuley has failed to shake off a knock picked up in the first half, meaning that Luke McCullough is given a chance to impress.

58 minSHOT! Another couple of shots to add to Northern Ireland's tally for those keeping count. First Ward dragged his effort from distance wide, while Lafferty lifted an attempt of his own over the bar. One criticism of the hosts this evening is the fact that, despite their domination, they only have a two-goal lead to show for it.

60 minWHAT A MISS! Incredible miss from McLaughlin who fails to find the target from a few yards out. The ball found its way to the full-back in a central position, and despite being in space he dragged his effort wide of goal. I would say that could prove to be the turning point in the game, but the Faroe Islands have shown absolutely nothing to suggest that they will pull a goal back in this second half.

63 minThe game has gone fairly quiet in the last few minutes, although the home side are the ones in control still. Michael O'Neil looks as though he is going to change things up a bit judging by the movement down on the touchline.

66 minNORTHERN IRELAND SUBSTITUTION: Nial McGinn's evening comes to an end as Paddy McCourt enters the fray.

69 minNo real chances of note in the last 10 minutes or so, with the Green and White Army being forced into attempts from range. A third goal would be nice to well and truly wrap the game up.

72 minFerguson still pushing forward, although after chasing down a ball into the box he is unfortunate not to win at least a corner, with the ball deflecting back off his leg and out of play. Can the Faroe Islands make the most of this little lull in play?

74 minThe visitors win a corner which Carroll makes light work of collecting. Certainly not as one sided now as it was in the first half, although Lars Olsen's side need to do more if they are to make a breakthrough.

75 minFAROE ISLANDS SUBSTITUTION: Klettskard makes way for Arnbjorn Hansen with 15 minutes remaining at Windsor Park.

78 minNorthern Ireland have played some decent football at times this evening, particularly in the final third, although there needs to be more of an end product. It will not cost them tonight, but they can't be as profligate in front of goal when they visit Greece on Tuesday night. In fairness, it is difficult to keep the momentum up when you are so on top.

80 minA chance for Ward to add a third for his side with a free kick a few yards outside the area. I'll be surprised if he does anything other than shoot from here...

81 minSAVE! He lined up as though he was going to swing it in, but Ward indeed managed to get a shot away, forcing Nielsen into a save down low.

82 minFAROE ISLANDS SUBSTITUTION: Holst is the second visiting player to leave the field, with Brandur Olsen coming on in his place. A lot is expected of this young player who recently signed a four-year contract at FC Copenhagen.

84 minNORTHERN IRELAND SUBSTITUTION: Goalscorer Kyle Lafferty makes way for Josh Magennis as we enter the final seven minutes. The Norwich City striker can be pleased with his shift this evening, with a pair of fresh legs offering the hosts a chance to get in behind the opposition back line.

87 minMichael O'Neil's charges look to spring a counter-attack which ultimately comes to nothing, as this game continues to peter out. It's not been a great second half in truth, but all the hard work was done in the first 45 minutes from Northern Ireland's point of view.

90 minNorthern Ireland just dictating the tempo of the game now, as they have done throughout in fairness, slowing down play the see out the game.

90+2 minFAROE ISLANDS SUBSTITUTION: Justinussen is the final visiting player to make way as Kaj Leo Bartalstovu gets a minute or so of action.


9.38pmThere we have it then, as referee Alan Yefet brings the game to an end. It was all very comfortable for the home side, who move to the top of the Group F standings with this win.

9.40pmThat's all from me for the time being, but stick around on Sports Mole as we bring you all the latest reaction from Belfast, as well as player ratings and a full-match analysis.

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Uruguay's Cristhian Stuani and Arevalo Rios celebrate after scoring against Northern Ireland during their friendly football match at Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on May 30, 2014
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