European Championship qualifiers: Ten-woman Northern Ireland earn heroic 1-0 win in Belarus

Rachel Furness
Rachel Furness celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game three minutes before half-time

Northern Ireland produced a heroic performance to win 1-0 in their European Championship qualifier in Belarus despite playing more than an hour of the game with 10 players.

Goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns was sent-off in the 27th minute for bringing down Anastaysia Shcherbachenia.

Three minutes before half-time Rachel Furness headed in the winner at the back post from Demi Vance’s corner.

NI move up to third in Group C and retain hope of making the play-offs.

The victory sees them move two points clear of the Belarusians, who have a game in hand over Kenny Shiels’ side.

Former world champions Norway have qualified with six wins from six but second-placed Wales are three points ahead of Northern Ireland, having played one game more.

The nine group winners, plus the three runners-up with the best records will automatically qualify for the tournament in England in 2022, while the other six runners-up will play off for the remaining berths in the 16-team finals.

Northern Ireland now boast eight points from their six qualifying games courtesy of two wins, two draws and two defeats by the Norwegians.

If they win their remaining two games they are guaranteed to progress to the play-off stage.

Indication of further progress

Their success at the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk is an indicator of further significant progress after they secured a first competitive win for three years by beating the Faroe Islands 6-0 on the road last month.

Belarus will aim to bounce back from their third defeat of the series when they travel to Northern Ireland for the return fixture on 27 November.

That will be NI’s penultimate game of their campaign, with the Faroe Islands also still to visit Belfast for the final group qualifier on 1 December.

Furness fires winner after red card setback

Northern Ireland began Tuesday’s game brightly when Lauren Wade’s cross was met by the head of Simone Magill but the Everton striker’s header went just wide.

Soon after Furness’s left-foot free-kick was on target but was comfortably saved by the home goalkeeper.

NI’s ambitions of clinching a famous away win appeared to suffer a major setback when Burns brought down the Belarus captain outside the area in a one-on-one situation and the referee produced a red card.

Substitute keeper Becky Flaherty, recalled to the squad after recovering from a long-term hip injury which required surgery, was subsequently called into action, replacing forward Kirsty McGuinness.

Furness’s headed goal nudged NI in front and the Liverpool midfielder almost added a second after the break when her left-foot drive came back off the bar.

The visitors showed grit, resilience and no little skill to hold out for a crucial and well-earned win.


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