Kyle Lafferty spearheads Norwich City’s international brigade on Euro 2016 duty
- Credit: PA
Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty elected to praise his Northern Ireland team mates rather than claim all the glory after a starring two-goal role in a crucial 2-1 Euro 2016 victory over Finland at Windsor Park.
Lafferty's first-half brace - taking his tally for five in the current qualification campaign - was enough to win the game for Michael O'Neill's side and keep them only a point behind Group F leaders Romania, who beat the Faroe Islands 1-0. Lafferty's men had to endure a nervous finish after Berat Sadik's late goal but held on for victory.
'It was obviously nervous but we deserved to win,' said Lafferty, who is currently on loan with Turkish side Caykur Rizespor after failing to force his way into the Canaries' starting line up on a regular basis since a summer move last year from Italy. 'It was excellent, the attitude, the heart and the team performance.'
Lafferty's first goal was an excellent volley on the turn before he nodded in the second, taking him second among his country's all-time leading scorers ahead of Colin Clarke and Billy Gillespie. And he said: 'Obviously it's all going right for me at the minute and I'm enjoying it.
'The first goal, I decided to hit it first time and luckily it went in. But it's down to the team, everyone was excellent today. Although I'm getting the goals and the rewards you have to look at the team performance.'
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Meanwhile, Wes Hoolahan claimed the vital assist in the Republic of Ireland's stoppage time equaliser, slotted by Shane Long, to earn the Republic of Ireland a point in a 1-1 Group D battle with leaders Poland in Dublin.
Slawomir Peszko's 26th-minute opener had looked to be enough to keep the Poles in the driving seat for one of the two automatic spots, but Long's intervention denied them at the death in a classic game of two halves.
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The draw leaves Ireland three points behind Poland, who top the group, while both Germany and Scotland are within touching distance.
'I think in the first 45 minutes Poland were brilliant and it took us a while to get into them. The gaffer changed the shape and from then on we were in the game,' said Long. 'We would have been disappointed not to get a draw, we could have got the win. It could be a massive point at the end of the campaign. Losing three points is massive so to keep them within touching distance is big. I think we need to be wining our home games, we need make it a fortress, but the main thing is not to lose. We will take the draw.'
Hoolahan's club mates Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker had a more comfortable passage in a 6-1 Hampden Park win over minnows Gibraltar.
Martin played the full 90 minutes for the Scots although Whittaker did not feature and boss Gordon Strachan admitted he was just relieved to escape without any damage against Uefa's newest member nation.
'All the credit should really go to Gibraltar. They made my life a misery for periods of that game,' he said. 'Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon now love me for not picking them. They are not in the history books. Unfortunately David Marshall has got his name against that forever now and he will be in quiz questions everywhere.
'I got a wee fright when they scored. It was partly down to us though. We spent all week working on attacking width. We fell asleep, taking it for granted that they would not attack and they did. We were caught walking out when we should have been walking back the way.
'So that made it an interesting couple of minutes.'
Alex Tettey scored in Norway's 5-1 Euro 2016 qualifying defeat in Croatia on Saturday but Martin Olsson enjoyed a better outing for his country with a 90-minute run out in Sweden's 2-0 win in Moldova on Friday.
Nathan Redmond was part of the England Under-21s squad who won 1-0 against the Czech Repbulic on Friday and Harry Toffolo was involved for the full game as England's Under-20s triumped 2-1 over their USA counterparts at Plymouth on Sunday. Redmond is back in action for the Young Lions on MOnday night when they entertain Germany's Under-21s at the Riverside Stadium.