Matchwinner Josh Magennis hailed Northern Ireland's team spirit as they left it late to snatch victory over Belarus and move top of Group C in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Magennis came off the bench at Windsor Park and netted an 87th-minute winner to seal a 2-1 victory on Sunday, giving Northern Ireland a maximum six-point return from their first two games. 

Michael O'Neill's side took the lead through Jonny Evans in the first half, but the hosts were only ahead for three minutes as Igor Stasevich equalised via a deflection.

The hosts piled on the pressure in the second half and eventually Belarus' resistance was broken as Magennis slid in to convert Stuart Dallas' low cross.

And the Bolton Wanderers forward felt that was the least they deserved for their efforts, telling Sky Sports: "The rest of the lads had done the job, I was just blessed to be the one to come on and score.

"That is what Michael O'Neill asks of his substitutes to come on and try and make a difference. We are a team that finds a way of winning.

"We have got a squad that is developing and got a good balance with young lads like Jordan Jones and Gavin Whyte coming through and the experienced guys like Jonny Evans shoring it up at the back."

O'Neill credited "big performances all over the pitch" for the victory and praised his side's persistence against Belarus' dogged backline.

"Delighted obviously with the win and I thought we played very well again," he said. 

"I was disappointed with the way we conceded the goal but we were in control of the game until the opening goal. 

"It is hard to create sometimes, we put good balls into the box, but the set-piece worked well for the opener. 

"We learned good lessons on concentration as well, it is big for some of the players coming in and there were big performances all over the pitch."

Josh Magennis came off the bench to fire Northern Ireland to the top of Group C with a late winner in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Belarus in Euro 2020 qualification.

Northern Ireland had controlled proceedings at Windsor Park but it looked set to be a frustrating evening until Magennis popped up with three minutes remaining.

His close-range finish was a rare bright moment in the second half after Igor Stasevich's deflected strike had cancelled out Jonny Evans' third international goal in the opening 45 minutes.

Victory moves Michael O'Neill's side, who beat Estonia in their opener, to the top of the group after Netherlands were beaten by Germany in Amsterdam.

The hosts quickly settled into their rhythm and dominated large parts of the opening exchanges, although clear-cut chances were a rarity as quality proved elusive in the final third. 

Lone striker Kyle Lafferty cut a frustrated figure as he failed to find room to latch onto enticing deliveries from midfield and his only chance of note came from long range.

However, that shot – which was pushed wide – led to the game's opening goal, Belarus unable to deal with a corner routine as Evans headed home from Steven Davis' front-post flick.

Falling behind seemed to spark Belarus into life and three minutes later they were level as Stasevich's shot clipped Stuart Dallas and looped over the stranded Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

A cagey match failed to produce much of note in the second half as Northern Ireland continued to press without stretching Andrey Klimovich.

Half chances fell the way of Paddy McNair, George Saville and Lafferty but they were all spurned as Belarus defended resolutely.

There was nothing they could do about Magennis' winner, though, as the Bolton Wanderers forward tapped in Stuart Dallas' low cross.

 

What does it mean? 

With Germany and Netherlands in Group C, Northern Ireland knew getting points against Estonia and Belarus would be crucial – particularly given their first four games were against the latter two nations. After the opening two matches they have six points, giving them hope of challenging for a top-two berth.

Magennis makes a difference

Super-sub Magennis was a handful during his 22-minute cameo, capped with a cool finish after coming in from the flank to score his fifth international goal.

Lafferty's goal woe continues

Lafferty led the line again for Northern Ireland but once again he failed to find the back of the net, his goal drought stretching to 14 games – a run that goes all the way back to November 2016.

What’s next?

In June, Northern Ireland travel to Estonia before the return match with Belarus in Minsk three days later. Ahead of the visit of O'Neill's men, Belarus have the daunting prospect of hosting Germany.

Crystal Palace marked a record-breaking game for manager Roy Hodgson with a 4-1 win at slumping Leicester City, who have now lost four on the spin at home.

Palace boss Hodgson - who became the oldest person to take charge of a team in a Premier League fixture - watched on as his side clincially defeated their hosts to increase the pressure on opposite number Claude Puel.

Michy Batshuayi reacted swiftly to divert a wayward long-range drive from James McArthur beyond goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for the only goal of the first half at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester equalised through Jonny Evans, the centre-back marking a notable milestone of his own by scoring on his 250th appearance in the competition, but Wilfried Zaha struck twice to sandwich a Luka Milivojevic penalty as Palace ran out comfortable winners.

Jamie Vardy, recalled to the starting XI after scoring – as well as missing a penalty – in a cameo appearance off the bench in the 3-1 defeat away at Tottenham last time out, glanced an early header narrowly over in a first half devoid of opportunities at both ends.

However, Palace claimed the lead five minutes before the interval, Batshuayi's quick reactions to stick out a right leg seeing him score in the Premier League for the first time since October 2017.

Having struggled to create much, Leicester copied their opponents' example to grab an equaliser 19 minutes into the second half.

After Palace failed to clear a long throw into their penalty area, Harvey Barnes snatched at a shot to inadvertently set up Evans, who had gone up for the set-piece opportunity, for a first-time finish.

Yet the optimism at the equaliser soon dissipated when Palace snatched the lead back, McArthur's clever clipped cross picking out the unmarked Zaha to side-foot in.

Evans' clumsy trip on Jeffrey Schlupp set up penalty expert Milivojevic and Zaha rubbed salt into the Leicester wounds with a fourth in added time, though by then plenty of the home crowd had already headed for the exits.

A powerful unbeaten century from Jonathan Carter handed the Barbados Pride a sensational four-wicket win over T&T Red Force on a day they began with it all to do at Kensington Oval.

In pursuit of a sizable 309 for victory, things began in bleak fashion when the overnight openers Shane Mosley and Rashidi Boucher were sent packing early.  Mosley only managed to add three to his overnight total as he was caught by Jeremy Solozano off the bowling of Daniel St Clair.

 Boucher departed just three overs later when he was caught, for 15, by Joshua Da Silva off Ravindaranth Rampaul to leave the squad wobbling at 24 for 2.  Aaron Jones was next to be dismissed when he bowled for 11 by Bryan Charles to leave the team at 53 for 3.

Carter, however, began the recovery effort and after losing Kevin Stoute (11) and Nicholas Kirton (12) as early partners, put on a massive 128 for the sixth wicket with Shamar Springer.

 The middle-order batsman then added another 94 for the seventh wicket with Tevyn Walcott, who was also unbeaten on 48.  Springer was good for a solid 66 from 105 balls. 

Red Force bowler Yannic Cariah was unable to repeat his first innings heroics as he claimed 1 for 30.  Daniel St Clair was the team’s most successful bowler after ending with 2 for 59.  The Pride reached their target a 326 for 6.

 

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