Estonia 1-2 Northern Ireland: Josh Magennis earns vital win in European Qualifier
Watch highlights as Michael O'Neill's side rally
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 08/06/19 10:18pm
Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifying hopes survived a scare as two late goals snatched a 2-1 win in Estonia.
Konstantin Vassiljev's 25th-minute free-kick looked like being the difference between the two sides as Northern Ireland's struggles in front of goal away from home continued, but two substitutes turned it around in Tallinn in the final 15 minutes.
Conor Washington struck in the 77th minute - Washington given the goal despite the shot nicking off Josh Magennis - and Magennis did enough to divert Jordan Jones' cross into the net three minutes later.
Defeat here would have left their Euro 2020 hopes hanging by a thread, with home and away games against the Netherlands and Germany to come later in the year, but victory keeps them top of the group with a maximum haul of nine points ahead of Tuesday's trip to Belarus.
It was a dramatic end to a game which threatened to end in frustration, with Michael O'Neill's men showing for too long why they came into the night without an away goal in seven outings.
Although they bossed possession early on, chances were few and far between and once Vassiljev - their tormentor in a World Cup qualifier eight years ago - had punished a mistake by Stuart Dallas with a low, bending free-kick around the
Estonia had the ball in the net again six minutes before the break but it was ruled out by referee Fabio Verissimo, perhaps generously as goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell appeared to run into Rauno Sappinen before Madis Vihmann headed in.
At the other end Gavin Whyte, making his first competitive start, sent in a fine cross but Liam Boyce could not get direction on his glancing header and Estonia ended the half on top, with Vassiljev scuffing a shot wide when left virtually unmarked inside the area.
O'Neill sent on Washington for Boyce at half-time to try to find a spark, but Northern Ireland lacked composure and were almost punished as Vassiljev sent a dipping shot onto the crossbar.
Northern Ireland soon began to stir and Dallas cut in from the left and picked out George Saville, who poked the ball goalwards to bring a first save of the night from Sergei Lepmets.
Peacock-Farrell had to save low down from Vlasiy Sinyavskiy as Estonia looked to hit their opponents on the counter-attack, but the flow of traffic was now firmly in Northern Ireland's favour.
Lepmets fluffed a clearance to gift the ball to Jones, but scrambled back into position before the Rangers winger floated a cross over.
But Northern Ireland got their equaliser in the 77th minute when Washington cut in from the left side and was able to run straight to the centre of the goal before clipping a shot, which diverted off Magennis and over Lepmets to find the net.
And three minutes later Northern Ireland were ahead as Magennis got a deft touch to Jones' cross for the ball to trickle over the line.
The celebrations were almost cut short by Artjom Dmitrijev, but Peacock-Farrell was at full stretch to push his powerful drive away.
There was another late scare as Dimitrijev headed just wide while Jones was close to adding a third at the other end, but Northern Ireland had already done enough.
- Northern Ireland have won four of their six meetings with Estonia (L2), including both in 2019.
- Estonia have now lost each of their last five European Championship qualifying matches, with today seeing their only goal scored in those five defeats.
- Northern Ireland have only lost one of their last 13 qualifying matches for the European Championship (W9 D3), with today's win extending their unbeaten run in such games to nine (W6 D3).
- There were just 167 seconds between Northern Ireland's equaliser and their winning goal by Josh Magennis.
O'Neill: A great response
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill told Sky Sports: "I thought we started the game quite well, we looked in good control, and then they scored from the free kick. We had to really dig deep in the second half and it was a great response.
"I felt that there was no benefit in drawing the game, we had to go and win it. We can play better, but these games are difficult at this time of the year but in terms of heart, desire, willingness to keep going and get the result, you can't fault them."
It's a tough trip for Estonia next in Group C as they take on Germany in Mainz, live on the Sky Sports Football red button. Northern Ireland are on the road again as they travel to Belarus on Tuesday, also live on Sky Sports Premier League.