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Northern Ireland 1 Russia 0: Paterson stuns Capello as O'Neill claims first win

By John Edwards

Head strong: Martin Paterson rises to score the winner

Michael O'Neill saluted a new-look Northern Ireland side, with the accent firmly on youth, after they claimed their first win in two years and spared him an unwanted entry in the record books at a jubilant Windsor Park.

Anything less than a win would have made O'Neill's start as Northern Ireland boss the worst in their history, eclipsing the nine games it took Peter Doherty to break his duck in the early 1950s.

O'Neill never looked in danger, as his vibrant young side took the game to Fabio Capello's Russia and deservedly sealed the points with a 43rd-minute header from Martin Paterson.

It was their first win since a 2-0 home victory over the Faroe Isles exactly two years ago, and they did it without the likes of injured striker Kyle Lafferty, West Brom winger Chris Brunt and Manchester United defender Jonny Evans, who pulled out with a stomach upset shortly before kick-off.

O'Neill hinted at a new era, after seeing emerging youngsters Jamie Ward and Oliver Norwood both sieze their opportunities, and while World Cup qualification may still look a distant hope, there was no mistaking the Northern Ireland manager's optimism for future campaigns.

'It was a great occasion for us and very satisfying for me personally,' he said. 'The players were magnificent from start to finish and deserved to win.

'Hopefully you're seeing the the shape of a team that can continue to develop. Nights like these are invaluable for giving players the belief they can play at the top level.

'I just think it's so important to see these youngsters putting some pressure on the older players. We haven't had enough of that in the past.

'Martin Paterson was brilliant, just as he was against Israel, and Jamie Ward was outstanding, too. I've been around long enough not to get carried away and starting saying it is a new day. But I know what is in this squad, and if we can keep the nucleus of it together, things will look bright.'

Clear-cut chances have tended to be in short supply at Windsor Park in recent times, but Northern Ireland carved out two just before half-time. The first was squandered, but the second was made to count.

Ward looked sharp throughout and was alive to the possibilities when Daniel Lafferty rolled a quick free-kick near the centre circle into his path in the 41st minute.

Sensing an opening, Ward rifled a low 25-yard drive that cannoned back off a post into the path of a startled Paterson, who scuffed his shot into keeper Igoe Akinfeev's arms.

There was no mistake from Paterson two minutes later, as Northern ireland deservedly siezed an advantage that had Fabio Capello prowling the technical area, arms folded and face like thunder.

Niall McGinn reached the by-line on the right and hooked in a cross that the leaping Paterson met with a header that was expertly guided past the diving Akinfeev.

Northern Ireland could count themselves unforunate not to double the lead, when a marginal offside cost Paterson a second goal in the 58th minute. There was no way back for Capello's subdued side, though, as Northern Ireland held out with ease and milked the moment for all it was worth at the end, with an impromptu huddle and dance in the centre circle., 15 August 2013

Northern Ireland 1-0 Russia

14 August 2013
Referee: Tom Harald Hagen (Norway)
Attendance: 11805
Northern Ireland: Carroll; Lafferty, McAuley, Hughes, Cathcart; McGinn (Evans 82), Davis, Norwood, Ferguson; Ward, Paterson (Grigg 86). Subs not used: McGovern, McGivern, Bruce, Hodson, McCann, O'Connor, Magennis, McKay
Coach: Michael O'Neill
Russia: Akinfeev; Anyukov, Ignashevich, Denisov, Dzagoev (Cheryshev 46, Samedov 52), Kerzhakov (Dzyuba 46), Berezutskiy, Shirokov, Bystrov, Faizulin; Kombarov
Coach: Fabio Capello (ITA)
Goal: Paterson 43
Booked: Lafferty 60, Paterson 74, Berezutskiy 74

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