Northern Ireland began their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Estonia thanks to goals from Niall McGinn and Steven Davis on Thursday evening.
It was the home side who had the first shot of the game inside the first minute as McGinn was allowed to get a shot in at the back-post however the ball sailed wide of goal in a bright start for Michael O’Neill’s men.
12 minutes had passed before the next real opening as Stuart Dallas played in Paddy McNair, but his cross-cum-shot was well held by Sergei Lepmets in the Estonian goal.
McNair then should have given O’Neill’s side the lead when with 19 minutes on the clock Jordan Jones broke away before his perfect cross picked out the Middlesbrough man in the middle, but he headed the ball into the ground from 4 yards out before it bounced over the crossbar.
On the half hour mark the home side had a penalty appeal turned down as Jamal Lewis raced into the box before being barged down by Mattias Kait but referee Ivan Bebek waved away the protests from the Norwich City full-back.
A minute later it was Craig Catchcart’s turn to warm the hands of Lepmets as he met a McNair corner but could only direct his header straight at the visiting goalkeeper.
Jordan Jones was lively for O’Neill’s men and on 39 minutes he came close to breaking the deadlock as Dallas saw his throw in flicked on for the winger at the back-post, but his low effort sailed inches wide of the target to the despair of the Windsor Park faithful.
On the stroke of half-time it was the dominant Green and White army who had yet another opening as McGinn floated in a cross to the back-post, but the ball had too much wait on it before drifting wide of the upright.
Northern Ireland then had the dream start to the second half as on 56 minutes Kyle Lafferty held the Estonia challenges off before playing the ball back to McGinn before the Aberdeen man finished beautifully into the net leaving Lepmets only a spectator in the visitor’s goal.
In what was a frantic start to the second period the Windsor Park crowd nearly saw their side double their lead as Jones crossed for McNair on 63 minutes, but the former Manchester United and Sunderland man nodded over the crossbar at the back-post.
Estonia then created their first real talking point of the game as Henri Anier was played in one on one, but he was denied by a super save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 71st minute the Leeds stopper holding firm to deflect the ball away.
However, on 73 minutes O’Neills men won themselves a penalty as George Saville was taken down by Estonia skipper Karol Mets before Davis drilled the penalty low into the net to double the home sides advantage.
Josh Magennis then was presented with a magnificent chance to make it three on the 80th minute as he was played in by Davis, but his powerful effort was straight at Sergei Lepmets as the Estonian keeper pushed away his low strike.
It was O’Neills men who had the final opening of the match as Magennis linked up with Davis before the midfielder pulled the ball back to the onrushing Dallas but his low strike was well blocked by Artjom Dmitrijev.