Northern Ireland begin World Cup qualifiers with win at home to Luxembourg

Wed, Sep 22 2021
Northern Ireland began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg on Friday night in front of 1,500 fans at Inver Park in Larne. 
 
The home side forced the first corner of the game when Marissa Callaghan was nearly played in, but Emma Kremer reacted well to turn the ball behind for a corner that Julie Nelson got on the end of, but the Luxembourg defence did well to clear away the danger before the defender could hit the target. 
 
Kenny Shiels side started with a real spring in their step as Emily Wilson got on the end of a cross, but she flicked her header wide of the target at the back-post following a cross from Cliftonville winger Kirsty McGuinness from the right. 
 
Lucie Schlimé in the Luxembourg goal was called into action on 17 minutes from a Chloe McCarron free kick as the midfielder's curling effort was only directed into the keepers' hands in what proved to be a comfortable stop . 
 
Northern Ireland however did take the lead as Rachel Furness played a clever pass into Callaghan who lifted the ball perfectly over the onrushing Schlimé  and into the back of the net to give the home side lift off at Inver Park in Larne.
 
One became two on 25 minutes as Furness got on the end of a corner from McGuinness before thumping her header across goal and into the back of the net for her 32nd international goal leaving the Luxembourg keeper with no chance of keeping it out of the back of the net. 
 
On 34 minutes Furness went close again from a header as she rose highest above the Luxembourg defence, but the keeper was down low quickly to make the save at her near post. 
 
Northern Ireland had a massive opportunity to make it 3-0 after a goal-mouth scramble when Wilson got a shot away before it was blocked it rebounded out to Sarah McFadden who also saw her follow up well blocked ,but the home side got a third bite of the cherry as the ball fell for Rebecca Holloway, but her effort was well saved by the keeper. 
 
It was three however with 43 minutes when Wilson netted her first goal for her country as Furness saw her free-kick crash off the post and fall for the striker who made no mistake in slotting home the rebound to the sheer delight of the home crowd.
 
Northern Ireland began the second half just as they finished the first on the front foot winning a penalty in the 51st minute as Jessica Berscheid was judged to handle the ball before Furness took full responsibility from the spot however her low effort crashed off the post and bounced away despite the keeper going the wrong way. 
 
Shiels then made a double change when Demi Vance made her long-awaited return from an ACL injury and Kerry Beattie came on for Wilson and Furness was also replaced on the hour mark with Furness also being managed after she also returned from a leg injury that she sustained in Ukraine in the Euro playoff first leg.
 
Beattie was instantly involved in the action as Vance played her in before she rolled her effort just wide of the target from close range after she turned the Luxembourg defence with ease. 
 
Northern Ireland did have their fourth with twenty to play via Lauren Wade when McGuinness linked up with Beattie whose shot was blocked by the defender but fell for Wade at the back-post before slotting her effort across goal and into the bottom corner of the net to seal the points and the perfect start to the new campaign. 
 
Shiels then made a further double change with Louise McDaniel who has starred for Cliftonville this season and Nadene Caldwell replacing McFadden and Callaghan for the final 15 minutes of the clash as Shiels had one eye on Latvia on Tuesday night at Windsor Park.
 
Northern Ireland would see the game out in a professional manner but did make a final change when Julie Nelson was replaced by Caitlin McGuinness.

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