Bittersweet win for N Ireland
Northern Ireland moved up to second in Group Three as they recorded an easy 3-0 away win against San Marino.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 11/02/09 9:47pm
Northern Ireland moved up to second in Group Three as they recorded an easy 3-0 away win against San Marino on Wednesday.
Gareth McAuley, Grant McCann and substitute Chris Brunt all got their names onto the scoresheet as Northern Ireland equalled their best away winning margin.
Not since 1968 when they beat Turkey in Istanbul had Northern Ireland scored three on their travels, but it was not all good news for Nigel Worthington's side as Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davis and George McCartney all picked up bookings which will lead to one-match suspensions.
The trio will now sit out of next month's clash at home to Poland.
San Marino continue to search for a first win in the country's history and they will have to do that without Manuel Marani in their next match as the striker saw red for two yellow card offences in the second half.
There was a major doubt of the Group Three encounter earlier on in the day, as heavy rain threatened the contest at the Stadio Olimpico Serravalle.
But after a positive pitch inspection, it was Worthington's side who flooded San Marino's penalty area.
First, Burnley's 17-goal striker Martin Paterson marked his place in the starting line-up by forcing an early save out of Federico Valentini in the San Marino goal with four minutes gone.
But it was a defender who opened the scoring for Northern Ireland after six minutes when Ipswich skipper McAuley powered a delightful half-volley from McCann's left-footed corner.
Stephen Craigan squandered an opportunity to double Northern Ireland's advantage when he somehow poked his two-yard effort wide as the away side continued to pepper San Marino's goal.
The only negative to come out of the first half for Northern Ireland was when Lafferty picked up a needless yellow card on 17 minutes, ruling him out of the next international.
David Healy was walking gingerly after a clumsy challenge by Riccardo Muccioli on 26 minutes, but Healy picked himself up and three minutes later his run ended with Lafferty testing the San Marino keeper.
On 32 minutes, Northern Ireland got the goal their dominance deserved.
After good work by Patterson the ball broke to McCann and he curled it into the top corner with his weaker foot.
Paterson, on 37 minutes, went close with a speculative effort as Northern Ireland continued to boss proceedings.
Manuel Marani tried an audacious effort from 35 yards as he tried to catch Maik Taylor off his line, but it proved a rare attacking moment for San Marino.
The second-half started in scrappy fashion, until the 52nd minute when Carlo Valentini let fly from 25-yards, but his effort went wide.
The home side had another tame long-distance effort, but it was enough for Worthington to make a change as Lafferty came off for Brunt on 55 minutes.
And Scunthorpe's McCann brought the game back into life when he tried his luck with a free-kick that hit the bar, but Brunt went one better with the away side's next set-piece as Northern Ireland went three up.
The West Brom winger swung a left-footed curler into the box aiming for Paterson and even though the striker could not latch onto the cross, the ball sailed past Federico Valentini.
Steven Davis joined Lafferty on the missing list for next month's qualifier against Poland when the Rangers midfielder made a poor mistimed tackle on 67 minutes.
Marani had a mad five minutes between Davis' foul and he was sent for an early bath for two ugly challenges.
McCartney then completed the triple suspension blow for Northern Ireland when he received the match's most bizarre yellow card for picking up the play-acting Michele Marani.
|San Marino||Team Statistics||Northern Ireland|
|0||1st Half Goals||2|
|2||Shots on Target||6|
|4||Shots off Target||5|