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Nov 11, 2016 at 7.45pm UK at Windsor Park
N. IrelandNorthern Ireland
4-0
Azerbaijan
Lafferty (27'), McAuley (40'), McLaughlin (66'), Davis (83')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Result: Northern Ireland move up to second in Group C with emphatic win over Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland move up to second in Group C following an emphatic 4-0 win over Azerbaijan at Windsor Park.

Northern Ireland have climbed up to second in their World Cup qualifying group following a convincing 4-0 win over Azerbaijan at Windsor Park in Belfast on Friday evening.

First-half goals from Kyle Lafferty and Gareth McAuley put Michael O'Neill's side in a commanding position, and Conor McLaughlin later added to the scoreline with his first ever international goal.

Steven Davis wrapped up the victory with a goal of his own in the 83rd minute to help Ireland move up a spot in Group C, which puts the nation five points behind leaders Germany.

Azerbaijan have been the surprise package of the qualifying group, having headed into the game on the back of a three-match unbeaten run and as many clean sheets.

Robert Prosinecki's men showed early promise by winning a corner inside the first three minutes, but Afran Ismayilov's header from 12 yards out missed the target.

As the game progressed, the Green Army took control and dominated the ball, with McAuley coming close to finding the breakthrough when he met the ball at the back post from a free kick, but his header across goal was cleared.

At the other end, Ramil Sheydaev's close-range shot was blocked, but Azerbaijan's goalscoring opportunities became few and far between in the first 45 minutes.

McLaughlin and Josh Magennis were getting plenty of joy down the right-hand side, and the former managed to find space before crossing into the box for Shane Ferguson, whose volley smashed into the side-netting.

Ireland caused problems for their opponents with long throws into the box, one of which bounced for Chris Brunt, but the West Bromwich Albion player ended up nodding the ball directly to the goalkeeper.

There was some concern as Brunt, who was making his first international appearance for 13 months, suffered a head injury while leaping for a header, but after being bandaged up on the sidelines, he was given the green light to continue.

After knocking on the door, the hosts found their way in through Lafferty, who caught the ball on the half-volley and sent it into the back of the net from 12 yards out.

O'Neill's side continued their dominance and doubled their lead five minutes before half time from a deep free kick, which was delivered into the box by Brunt.

McAuley rose the highest in the box to meet it and directed a powerful header past the keeper to give the Green Army a two-goal cushion at the break.

Azerbaijan posed more of a threat at the start of the second half as they searched for an equaliser, with Ismayilov's through-ball reaching substitute Deniz Yilmaz, but the goalkeeper rushed out to block the shot.

Shane Ferguson tried to capitalise on a poor back pass by latching on to the loose ball and crossing for Oliver Norwood, whose 25-yard shot was blocked.

Ireland had to soak up some pressure from the visitors, who came close to finding an equaliser when the ball dropped to Arif Dashdemirov's feet on the edge of the box, but as he leaned back to take a strike, the ball ended up soaring above the crossbar.

Azerbaijan's dominant spell did not last long, though, as Ireland tripled their lead from a set piece. Norwood's delivery found McLaughlin at the near post and the defender headed home off the woodwork.

In the 83rd minute, Steven Davis helped in Brunt's low strike with a flick, which capped off a successful night for the Green Army.

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Michael O'Neill during the Euro 2016 Group C match between Ukraine and Northern Ireland on July 16, 2016
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Thursday's key events


ROWING
· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

HOCKEY
· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

CANOE SLALOM
· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

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