Northern Ireland ease into group second spot

San Marino 0 Northern Ireland 3
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The Independent Online

Northern Ireland completed a comfortable double over San Marino to move into second place in World Cup qualifying Group Three.

Gareth McAuley and substitute Chris Brunt both scored their first goals at this level in a comprehensive victory. Grant McCann was also on target as Nigel Worthington's side got the victory they craved with home fixtures against Poland and Slovenia to come next month.

The visitors made the bright start expected of them and were ahead within seven minutes through McAuley. The Ipswich full-back drove in an excellent half-volley following a corner from Grant McCann.

Another emphatic finished doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, McCann rifling a shot into the corner from 18 yards after Martin Paterson's effort was blocked.

Northern Ireland began the second half as they ended the first, though it took them until the 63rd minute to score a third, Brunt driving in a 25-yard free-kick. San Marino had Manuel Marani sent off for a second booking seven minutes later.

Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor (Birmingham City); McAuley (Ipswich Town), Craigan (Motherwell), Hughes (Fulham), McCartney (Sunderland); Johnson (Birmingham), McCann (Scunthorpe United), Davis (Rangers), Paterson (Burnley); Healy (Sunderland), Lafferty (Rangers). Substitutes used: Brunt (West Bromwich Albion) for Lafferty, 55; Feeney (Cardiff City) for Paterson, 76; McCourt (Celtic) for Hughes, 81.

Referee: D Stankovic (Serbia).

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