Kyle Lafferty is the cream of the crop for Norwich City’s international brigade
PUBLISHED: 23:41 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 23:50 14 October 2014
Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty insisted Northern Ireland had sent out a massive statement with a stunning 2-0 win over Euro2016 Group F favourites Greece in Athens on Tuesday night to maintain their 100% start to the qualifiers.
Lafferty sealed the points six minutes into the second half after Jamie Ward had given Michael O’Neill’s side a ninth-minute lead as the visitors made it three wins from three – their best ever start to a qualifying section.
“I’m lost for words,” said Lafferty, after scoring his third goal of the campaign already. “That was great. The lads worked hard all week. We got a great result against the Faroe Islands (2-0 win on Saturday). Coming here, we knew it would be a tough game, but we have a great spirit in our team.
“We believe in ourselves. Michael’s put that belief in the team. Every single player believes we can qualify for the Euros. We sent out a massive statement tonight. To score three goals in three qualifying games, I’m delighted. But it’s not all about myself - it’s about the team. We got the three points we came here for and we’re sitting top of the league on nine points.”
Manager O’Neill was thrilled to have plotted a third straight win.
“I am delighted with the work-rate of team, the belief of the team and how they played,” he said. “There wasn’t a player we couldn’t give plaudits to tonight.”
Lafferty’s club team mate, Wes Hoolahan, also had a night to remember with an assist for the Republic of Ireland’s stoppage time equaliser to stun World Champions Germany in a 1-1 Group D draw in Gelsenkirchen.
Hoolahan was introduced in the 76th minute after a starring role in the weekend 7-0 win over minnows Gibraltar but the Irish looked set for a defeat after Toni Kroos’ 71st minute opener nudged the hosts ahead before John O’Shea stabbed home Hoolahan’s cross for just the third goal of his international career on his 100th appearance to preserve Ireland’s unbeaten run.
Meanwhile, in the same qualifying group Scotland, with Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker playing the full 90 minutes, were held to a 2-2 draw against Poland in Warsaw.
Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismaith had set the Scots on course for the win after cancelling out Krzysztof Maczynski’s first half goal, but Arkadiusz Milik’s thumping hit earned the Poles a point.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan reserved special praise for Whittaker and Gordon Greer who came in for Grant Hanley and Andrew Robertson.
“Gordon Greer was fantastic. He looks nothing like a footballer. He looks like a rock star who has turned up at a testimonial game, but he was absolutely fantastic,” said Strachan. “Steven Whittaker - you just put him in and know what you’re going to get. If you picked 10 Steven Whittakers, sleep would be easier the night before a game.”
Earlier on Tuesday evening, Norwich’s young midfielder Nathan Redmond played his part in helping England’s U21s qualify for next summer’s Euro2015 U21 finals with a 4-2 aggregate win over Croatia’s U21s.