Northern Ireland rally to take win in Estonia to make it three from three in Euro 2020 qualifiers

Estonia's Mattias Kait with Northern Ireland's Gavin WhyteEstonia's Mattias Kait with Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte
Estonia's Mattias Kait with Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte

Gavin Whyte made his first competitive start for Northern Ireland as he got the nod ahead of Jordan Jones for Saturday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia.

The Oxford winger came in on the right side of a completely changed front three from Northern Ireland's outings in March, with Liam Boyce replacing Kyle Lafferty up front and Stuart Dallas moving from full-back to the left wing.

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Paddy McNair kept his place in midfield ahead of Corry Evans while Michael Smith came in at right-back after injury.

Northern Ireland started positively and bossed possession. Whyte and Jamal Lewis both made dangerous runs forward while Boyce made a nuisance of himself.

However, the only chances in the early going came through set-pieces, where the towering size of Estonia's central defenders Madis Vihmann and Fulham's Mattias Kait was too much for the visitors.

But Estonia grew in confidence and there was a moment of alarm in the 11th minute when Konstantin Vassiljev's dangerous low cross was heading for Rauno Sappinen before Craig Cathcart took it off his toe.

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And the hosts punished a bad mistake from Stuart Dallas in the 25th minute. The Leeds man let a simple ball roll through his legs and then fouled Sergei Zenjov in a bid to correct his error.

That gave Estonia with a free-kick just on the edge of the box and skipper Vassiljev sent a powerful low effort beyond Peacock-Farrell and into the right-hand corner of the net.

Northern Ireland went close to a quick reply when Cathcart headed Paddy McNair's corner just over on the half hour.

Estonia had the ball in the net again six minutes before half-time when Vihmann headed in Vassiljev's corner but it was ruled out for a foul on Peacock-Farrell by Sappinen, a decision Northern Ireland appeared lucky to get.

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At the other end Whyte sent in a fine cross but Boyce could not get the direction on his glancing header and Estonia ended the half on top, with Vassiljev scuffing a shot wide when left virtually unmarked inside the area.

Michael O'Neill replaced Boyce with Conor Washington at the break but it did little to improve Northern Ireland's fortunes in the early part of the second half.

They looked rushed in possession, short on composure as they chased the game, and needlessly gave the ball away too often.

Vassiljev almost punished them with a dipping effort from 25 yards which struck the crossbar before Northern Ireland began to show signs of life.

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Dallas cut in from the left and picked out George Saville, who poked the ball goalwards to bring a first save of the night from Sergei Lepmets.

Peacock-Farrell had to save low down from Vlasiy Sinyavskiy as Estonia look to hit on the counter-attack, with the flow of traffic now firmly in Northern Ireland's favour.

Lepmets fluffed a clearance to gift the ball to Jordan Jones, but scrambled back into position before the Rangers' winger floated a cross over.

But Northern Ireland got their equaliser in the 77th minute when Washington cut in from the left side and was able to run straight to the centre of the goal before clipping a shot over Lepmets.

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And three minutes later Northern Ireland were ahead as fellow substitute Josh Magennis got just enough on Jordan Jones' cross for the ball to trickle over the line.

The celebrations were almost cut short by Artjom Dmitrjev, but Peacock-Farrell was at full stretch to push his powerful drive away.