Match Analysis: Northern Ireland 2-0 Faroe Islands

Match Analysis: Northern Ireland 2-0 Faroe Islands
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Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Northern Ireland's comfortable 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over the Faroe Islands.

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

The visitors were gifted an opportunity to pull a goal back from the penalty spot, only for Roy Carroll 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.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how the 90 minutes of action unfolded.

Match statistics

Northern Ireland
Shots: 27
On target: 8
Possession: 60%
Corners: 6
Fouls: 14

Faroe Islands
Shots: 4
On target: 1
Possession: 40%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 13

Was the result fair?

The only unfair aspect about this result is the fact that Northern Ireland were unable to add to their tally in what was a dominant first-half display. Right from the off, Michael O'Neill's charges dictated play, looking to get as many crosses into the box as possible through full-backs Shane Ferguson and Conor McLaughlin in particular. McAuley and Lafferty were the two men to profit from the array of chances in the opening 45 minutes and put the hosts in command.

Completely against the run of play, the Faroe Islands were presented with an opportunity to reduce the deficit from the penalty spot, although Benjaminsen was unable to get the better of Carroll, who had next to nothing to do up until that point. Northern Ireland sat back a little following the interval, still controlling the ball and linking well as a team, but they were more than happy to settle for a 2-0 win which lifts them two points clear at the top of Group F.

Northern Ireland's performance

It was always going to be difficult for the Green and White Army to match their performance levels from the first half following the interval and, despite constantly plugging away throughout, they were unable to add to their tally. It may prove costly should they miss out qualification on goal difference in 12 months time in what is likely to be an extremely competitive group. That said, it would be wrong to criticise their profligacy in front of goal because they played some excellent football in the final third at times.

The movement of Lafferty in particular caused defenders numerous problems, with Northern Ireland's full-backs setting up camp in the final third in large parts to swing a constant barrage of crosses into the area. Overall O'Neill's men recorded 27 attempts on goal - eight of which were on target - painting an accurate picture of just how dominant they were throughout. Tougher challenges lie ahead, of course, but this is now their best start to a campaign since 1968. Maybe it is time for Green Army supporters to begin believing.

Faroe Ireland's performance

Losing games by big margins is something that the Faroe Islands have become accustomed to, although they will be happy to have kept to scoreline down to just two goals following an extremely one-sided opening 45 minutes. It could very well have been a different story had Benjaminsen not fluffed his big chance from the spot, but their opponents always looked likely to have another few gears to move into should they have needed to.

This is defeat number 25 in a row now in competitive action for Lars Olsen's side, whose position as minnows on the world stage was highlighted once more following what was at times a very weak showing. That said, when a team of part timers restricts an outfit boasting Premier League stars to a slender 2-0 scoreline, then they can hold their heads up high.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Shane Ferguson: A few Northern Ireland players were in contention for this accolade, with Lafferty's performance in particular winning him many plaudits, but Ferguson's tireless running from the first minute until the last sees him crowned as man of the match. He may have conceded the penalty, but the Newcastle United defender more than made up for it with his delightful crosses, one of which was tucked home for the second goal.

Biggest gaffe

McLaughlin's miss on the hour will go a little under the radar due to the ease in which Northern Ireland saw out the game, but how the full-back failed to find the target from a few yards out I do not no. That aside, the Crawley Town man can be happy with his showing this evening.

Referee performance

Alan Yefet had one key decision to make, which he just about got right. It was harsh to see Ferguson penalised for tugging away at Joan Simun Edmundsson's shirt, and the visiting player certainly made the most of it, but the official from Israel was correct to point to the spot.

What next?

Northern Ireland: O'Neill's table toppers travel to Greece on Tuesday night as they look to maintain their winning start in Group F.

Faroe Islands: The European minnows host Hungary next week, hoping to put to and end a run of 25 consecutive defeats in competitive games.

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