Northern Eire introduced a run of 5 straight Euro 2024 qualifier defeats to an finish because of a snug 3-0 victory over San Marino in Belfast.
The hosts made a blistering begin with Paul Smyth volleying within the opener earlier than Josh Magennis hit the underside nook on 11 minutes.
Conor McMenamin slotted dwelling his first worldwide objective to seal the win.
It accomplished a Group H double over the minnows however Northern Eire’s hopes of constructing the finals are all however over.
Certainly, wins for Slovenia and Denmark afterward Saturday would affirm their failure to qualify for the match in Germany subsequent yr.
Lengthy-term Accidents to key gamers, together with Steven Davis and Stuart Dallas, have been a blow for Northern Eire supervisor Michael O’Neill whereas skilled defender Craig Cathcart retired final month.
NI safe win over San Marino – because it occurred
It is a interval of transition and O’Neill is planning forward along with his younger squad to the 2026 World Cup qualifiers whereas he has “one eye” on the Euro 2028 marketing campaign, with Northern Eire a number nation within the latter.
Nevertheless, he’s decided to complete the remaining Group H video games on a excessive and whereas it was a wonderful begin towards the world’s lowest ranked staff at Windsor Park, the remainder of the match was a largely lacklustre affair.
O’Neill made six modifications from final month’s defeat by Kazakhstan together with a brand new entrance three of Smyth, Magennis and Dale Taylor.
The trio impressed in Northern Eire’s robust opening as they doubled their factors tally in a one-side affair, with San Marino offering subsequent to nothing in assault.
Hosts fast out of the blocks
Queen’s Park Rangers striker Smyth scored simply 4 minutes after approaching for his Northern Eire debut towards South Korea in 2018.
He ended his five-year await a second Northern Eire objective after 5 minutes with Taylor slipping in Jamal Lewis on the overlap and his cross to the back-post picked out Smyth, who smashed in with a scissor-kick end.
Smyth had already arrange up Taylor to go over and he would flip supplier for the second objective, along with his low cross from the suitable slid into the web by Magennis from six yards.
The depth from the hosts dropped after making it 2-0 though Trai Hume rifled simply over from distance and so they had two objectives dominated out earlier than the break.
Smyth thought he had accomplished his double with a beautiful lobbed effort previous Elia Benedettini from Jonny Evans’ pinpoint cross, however after a prolonged VAR test he was adjudged simply offside.
Taylor was subsequent to search out the web however this time there was little must go to VAR with the Wycombe Wanderers ahead at the least a yard offside.
Northern Eire continued to carve out openings within the second half with Magennis sending Taylor clear however he poked vast after Benedettini raced out to pressure him right into a rushed end.
Conor Washington escaped a crimson card simply minutes after approaching as substitute – his poor problem on Lorenzo Larrazi resulted in referee Bram van Driessche going to the pitchside VAR display however he determined it solely merited a yellow card.
Benedettini produced an excellent double-save to disclaim two substitutes with Isaac Worth’s deflected shot parried out to Callum Marshall, whose diving header discovered the palms of the keeper.
The third objective arrived 9 minutes from time as Benedettini pushed a Washington strike into the trail of McMenamin and after a poor first contact the substitute slammed the ball in from shut vary.
Paddy McNair is suspended for Tuesday’s dwelling encounter towards group leaders Slovenia after choosing up a reserving within the last seconds.