Worthington builds Belfast 'fortress' as his side go top
Northern Ireland 3 Poland 2
Monday 30 March 2009
Nigel Worthington, the Northern Ireland manager, saluted his "fantastic" side as they moved into pole position in Group Three after defeating Poland in their World Cup qualifier. The home side stretched their unbeaten home record in competitive games to eight matches with Saturday's 3-2 win at Windsor Park.
Warren Feeney made the breakthrough only for Ireneusz Jelen to equalise for Poland before half-time. However, Northern Ireland stormed back and Jonny Evans restored their lead a minute into the second half with his first goal at this level.
The hosts then sealed the points with a bizarre own goal from Michal Zewlakow in the 61st minute, his back pass bobbling over the feet of goalkeeper Artur Boruc. It was the boost Worthington hoped for with Slovenia due to visit Belfast on Wednesday.
"Poland are a good team but when we have big matches Windsor Park becomes a fortress," the manager said. "That's what you want because sadly our away form tends to let us down.
"Tonight the lads were fantastic. We carried on the good work from training. We started well, pushed them back and went ahead. When they got their goal it rocked us for 10 minutes. But we stayed solid, kept our shape and got through to half-time. Then to produce that level of performance for the last 45 minutes was phenomenal."
Goals: Feeney (10) 1-0, Jelen (27) 1-1, Evans (47) 2-1, Zewlakow (61og ) 3-1, Saganowski (90) 3-2.
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Taylor (Birmingham City); McAuley (Ipswich Town), Craigan (Motherwell), Hughes (Fulham), Evans (Manchester United); Johnson (Birmingham City), Clingan (Norwich City), McCann (Scunthorpe), Brunt (West Bromwich Albion); Healy (Sunderland), Feeney (Dundee United). Substitutes used: Baird (Fulham) for Feeney, 83), Little (Reading) for Healy, 90.
Poland (4-4-2): Boruc; Wasilewski, Dudka, Zewlakow (Bosacki, 65), Wawrzyniak; M Lewandowski, Roger, Krzynowek, Bandrowski (Blaszczykowski, 60); R Lewandowski, Jelen (Saganowski 71).
Referee: M Hansson (Sweden).
Booked: Northern Ireland Brunt; Poland Roger, Wasilewski, Krzynowek.
Man of the match: Feeney.
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