Northern Ireland's record goalscorer David Healy inspired his side to a morale-boosting victory over Finland in Helsinki last night.
The Leeds striker powered in a header from a first-half corner to give the team the spark they needed and the 18-year-old substitute Kyle Lafferty added a second with a strong header after the break. Finland pulled a goal back through Mika Vayrynen after a one-two with Shefki Kuqi, but Northern Ireland held out.
It was just the boost the manager, Lawrie Sanchez, was looking for ahead of the opening Euro 2008 qualifier against Iceland next month and he was lavish in his praise of Lafferty.
"It is nice to see young talent like Kyle coming through," Sanchez said. "He might have a go at David's record in years to come. We lack height as a nation and a big target man is part of British football. Kyle comes into that mould but he also has very good technique. I thought we controlled the game quite well, but it will count for nothing in two weeks if we do not win then."
Finland (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Pasanen, Hyypia, Tihinen, Nurmela; Forssell, Kolkka, Ilola, Riihilahti; Kallio, Eremenko. Substitutes used: Vayrynen for Ilola, h -t; Wiss for Riihilahti, h-t; Kuqi for Forssell, 57; Johansson for Nurmela, 75; Lagerblom for Kolkka, 75; Pasoja for Hyypia, 81.
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor (Birmingham City); Baird (Southampton), Hughes (Aston Villa), Craigan (Motherwell), Capaldi (Plymouth); Gillespie (Sheffield United), Clingan (Nottingham Forest), McCann (Cheltenham), Elliott (Hull City); Healy (Leeds United), Quinn (Northampton). Substitutes used: Jones (Burnley) for Gillespie, h-t; Feeney (Luton) for Healy, h-t; Lafferty (Burnley) for Quinn, 52; Duff (Burnley) for Hughes, 65; Sproule (Hibernian) for Elliott, 65.
Referee: M Svendsen (Denmark).