Result: Gareth McAuley double earns Northern Ireland vital win

Result: McAuley double earns N Ireland vital win
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Northern Ireland earn a 3-1 win against the Faroe Islands that puts them top of Group F.

A Gareth McAuley double helped Northern Ireland head to the top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group F after beating the Faroe Islands 3-1 in Torsvollur this evening.

The West Bromwich Albion defender gave his side the lead in the first half after a free kick from Oliver Norwood was met by an unmarked McAuley, who planted his header past Gunnar Nielsen.

The Faroes struck back on 36 minutes after Stuart Dallas had the ball stolen by Sonni Nattestad, who put in a loss cross for Joan Edmundsson to fire past Michael McGovern.

Norwich forward Kyle Lafferty had a great chance to give Northern Ireland the lead heading into half time but his header looped over both the on-rushing goalkeeper and the bar.

The Faroes' goalscorer Edmundsson was then sent off in the second half, earning a second booking after a late challenge on Norwood and left the home side with 10 men for the final 25 minutes.

Northern Ireland would punish that mistake quickly, with McAuley netting his second moments afterwards by nodding home another free kick from close range.

Lafferty made it three with 15 minutes remaining, with substitute Josh Magennis pulling the ball back for the 27-year-old, who had to battle for the ball but managed to squeeze his shot into the bottom corner from a few yards out.

Magennis came close himself late on, hitting the post after being put through on goal by Steve Davis, but Michael O'Neill's side saw out the final minutes to earn a vital win.

The result sees Northern Ireland edge ever closer to qualifying for the European Championships, and they face third-placed Hungary at Windsor Park on Monday evening when a victory would guarantee a plane ticket to France next year.

Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas (2R) is congratulated after scoring during the international friendly football match between Qatar and Northern Ireland at the Alexandra Stadium in Crewe on May 31, 2015
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