Northern Ireland got their Euro 2020 qualification campaign off to a fine start as goals from Niall McGinn and Steven Davis were enough for a 2-0 win over Estonia.
With Germany and Netherlands also present in Group C, it was imperative Michael O'Neill's side got off to a strong start and they lived up to expectations with a dominant display in Belfast on Thursday.
Paddy McNair's dreadful miss summed up Northern Ireland's frustration in the first half, but McGinn's first international goal since Euro 2016 broke the deadlock after the restart.
And with Bailey Peacock-Farrell having made a superb save to keep the hosts' lead intact, Davis made sure of the win from the penalty spot as Northern Ireland joined Netherlands in making a winning start in the pool.
Northern Ireland should have been rewarded for a positive start in the 19th minute, but McNair somehow headed into the ground and over a gaping goal from three yards out.
Jamal Lewis had a penalty appeal turned down as the hosts maintained the pressure, with Jordan Jones drilling just wide soon after.
Northern Ireland finally had their lead in the 56th minute, though, Kyle Lafferty laying the ball off for McGinn to slam home through a crowd of players.
McNair could have atoned for his earlier miss eight minutes later, only to head over once more, and Northern Ireland would have been made to pay had Peacock-Farrell not denied Henri Anier from point-blank range.
That save paid further dividends four minutes later when Karol Mets scythed down George Saville – Davis making no mistake from 12 yards to make sure of Northern Ireland's first competitive win in nine matches.
What does it mean? Northern Ireland put Nations League profligacy behind them
Northern Ireland endured a frustrating UEFA Nations League campaign, putting in a string of promising performances without the results to match.
Once again, they failed to make the most of some good chances presented to them, but on this occasion they found the quality to make a breakthrough.
Peacock-Farrell intervention crucial
The young goalkeeper has been unfortunate to lose his number one spot at Leeds United in recent weeks, but despite having little to do at Windsor Park, came up with a vital save when it mattered to maintain Northern Ireland's lead.
McNair let off the hook
Northern Ireland's win would have been a lot more comfortable had former Manchester United man McNair made the most of two clear-cut chances, but fortunately for the midfielder, Estonia failed to take advantage of his wastefulness.
Key Opta Facts:
- Northern Ireland picked up their first win in nine competitive matches (D1 L7) since beating the Czech Republic in September 2017.
- Michael O'Neill's men have now won their opening match in each of the last three European Championship qualifying campaigns.
- Estonia have never kept a clean sheet against Northern Ireland in five previous meetings, failing to score themselves in three of those games. However, this was the first match they had conceded more than once against them.
- Niall McGinn's goal was his first in 13 appearances for Northern Ireland in all competitions, since scoring against Ukraine in EURO 2016.
- Ten of Steven Davis' 12 goals for Northern Ireland have been scored in home games.
Northern Ireland face Belarus in their next qualifier on Sunday. Estonia, meanwhile, take on Gibraltar in a friendly in their next outing.
25 de abril 2019
|Croft field goal sees Storm edge out Warriors|
|You´re never favourites against Barcelona, says Liverpool boss Klopp|
|Manchester United´s Lukaku reveals Serie A ´dream´|
|Steyn World Cup fright for Proteas|
|His season is a masterpiece – Guardiola lauds Bernardo Silva as one of Europe´s best|
|Curry: Warriors must erase memories of Game 5 loss to Williams-inspired Clippers|
|Gattuso accepts AC Milan ´embarrassed´ by Lazio|
|This game sucked – Thompson laments loss as Warriors miss chance to advance|
|It´s ´vital´ Tottenham keep Eriksen – Rose|
|Roosters regain ANZAC Day Cup|
|Golovkin announces coach split|
|PFA Premier League Team of the Year: Is Pogba worthy of a place?|
|Pogba the surprise inclusion in Man City, Liverpool-dominated PFA Team of the Year|
|Brisbane Roar 3 Adelaide United 5: Reds secure home final as Fowler watches on|
|Mariners introduced to Padres´ Paddack in loss|
|Rockets close out Jazz, Clippers hold off Warriors|
|MLS Review: Rooney leads DC United, Galaxy held|
|Rockets´ Capela explains why he wants to face Warriors|
|LeBron disputes reported rift with Lakers front office|
|Copa Libertadores Review: River Plate advance, Boca Juniors held|
|Kovac unsure about contentious penalty decision|
|Kerr calls Lillard´s game-winner against Thunder a ´good shot´|
|Griezmann important for future at Atletico – Simeone|
|Russell ´definitely´ wants to stay with Nets|
|Fernandinho to have scan on knee injury|
|Top prospect Guerrero called up by Blue Jays|
|Solskjaer agrees with Keane that United need ´right characters´|
|Emery not blaming Leno for Wolves loss|
|Guardiola ´likes to be critical´ of Man City derby hero Sane|
|Kruse bemoans ´ridiculous´ penalty in DFB-Pokal semi-final|
|Lazio condemn ´simplistic´ reporting of alleged racist incidents|
|Solskjaer: United not good enough to match City|
|Keane takes aim at Fred for ´cheating´ in Man United´s derby defeat|
|Kompany: Still all to play for in Premier League title race|
24 de abril 2019
|Rashford: We did not play like Manchester United|
|Arsenal can still secure top-four spot - Emery|
|Guardiola and Man City break records in derby win at Old Trafford|
|Kvitova eases through in Stuttgart, Istanbul seeds tumble|
|Manchester United 0 Manchester City 2: Silva & Sane send visitors back to summit|
|AC Milan 0 Lazio 1 (agg 0-1): Correa winner earns Inzaghi´s men revenge|
|Werder Bremen 2 Bayern Munich 3: Lewandowski double sends Kovac´s men into final|
|Wolves 3 Arsenal 1: Stunning first-half display hurts Gunners´ top-four hopes|
|Ferrer to face Nadal in Barcelona as Fognini withdraws|
|United States earn ODI status for first time|
|Bordalas wary of ´awesome´ Benzema|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Valencia 2: Late Correa stunner seals win as Barca´s title party is delayed|
|Keane on Pogba: I wouldn´t believe a word he says|
|De Villiers, Stoinis inspire in-form RCB to another win|
|Gayle & Russell headline Windies World Cup squad|
|Former Barcelona chief Rosell acquitted of money laundering|
|United v City: Darmian and Pereira in as Solskjaer wields axe|
|Mourinho: Some players might think I´m a b******|
|Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe? Who is Europe´s most prolific young goalscorer?|
|Steelers sign Roethlisberger to two-year contract extension|
|Frank Lampard charged with misconduct by FA|
|Zidane: Bale sale not required to sign Hazard|
|Player sacked after missing Panenka in shoot-out loss|
|FA welcomes anti-racism manifesto backed by Sterling|
|Ravens make Tucker highest-paid kicker in NFL|
|Nadal fights back to halt Mayer in Barcelona|
|Springbok De Jager sold on three-year Sale deal|
|AFC Champions League Review: Holders Kashima Antlers suffer first defeat|
|Alaphilippe defends Fleche Wallonne title in tight finish|
|Cowboys pick up Ezekiel Elliott´s fifth-year option|
|Champions Cup final quintet nominated for European Player of the Year|
|NFL Draft 2019: How does Kyler Murray compare to QBs taken first overall?|
|Pukki, Sharp and Abraham top PFA Championship Team of the Year|
|Mourinho recharged by rest but not planning Premier League return|
|Pro14 set for brotherly battle as Jerry Sexton joins Southern Kings|
|Sometimes things I want don´t happen – Zidane cagey over futures of Navas, Courtois|