NORTHERN IRELAND BEAT RUSSIA IN O’NEILL’S FIRST WIN AS MANAGER.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill looked happy at the end with his first win as manager

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill looked happy at the end with his first win as manager

WINDSOR Park hasn’t rocked like it since the infamous wins over England and Spain.

And when Martin Patterson headed home before half time, the Windsor Park roar could be heard all over south Belfast.

And at the final whistle the fans were still singing and chanting as Northern Ireland notched up an infamous 1-0 victory over Russia.

It was a stunning win – the first in Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign – and the first for manager Michael O’Neill in his tenth game in charge.

And it was a remarkable win too over Fabio Capello’s Russia given the injury list faced by O’Neill in the build up to the game.

Striker Kyle Lafferty pulled out on Monday after picking up an Achilles injury while playing for his Italian club Palermo on Sunday.

And not long before kick off Manchester United defender Jonny Evans also pulled out of the team because of sickness.

So it was an uphills task for Northern Ireland from the first whistle but they put in a performance they can be well be proud of.

Just before the goal Jamie Ward struck a post and in the second half Paterson had a header ruled out for offside.

It was Northern Ireland’s first win since August 2011.

That was a 4-0 success over the Faroe Islands under Nigel Worthington, who resigned just a few months later after a poor Euro 2012 qualifying effort.

O’Neill took over but has had to wait more than most for a maiden victory.

After disappointing home draws against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, and the most recent defeat by Israel, things were looking bleak.

But, as they have done so often in their history, the men in green produced an against-the-odds victory when it was least expected.

Paterson’s header was his first competitive goal for Northern Ireland – his only other in a green shirt having come from a penalty in a friendly against Finland.

It came just seconds after Ward’s low 25-yard drive had crashed off an upright, with Paterson just missing out on forcing in the rebound.

O’Neill’s men had started brightly with McGinn directing an ambitious volley wide and Paterson seeing his shot comfortably saved by CSKA Moscow keeper Igor Akinfeev.

However Russia, knowing victory would take them to the top of the Group F, took over and penned the hosts deep into their own half.

There was a real heart-stopping moment when Alan Dzagoev seemed to have worked an opening in the box but West Brom defender Gareth McAuley was again on hand with a fine sliding tackle to dispossess the Russian.

Northern Ireland, hit by the late withdrawals of Manchester United defender Jonny Evans and Palermo striker Kyle Lafferty, emerged from the pressure unscathed and produced a blistering finish to the first half.

The drama started in the 41st minute when Ward collected Danny Lafferty’s quick free-kick and ventured forward to drill a low shot against the post from 25 yards.

Paterson could not get any power as he attempted to force in the rebound but the Huddersfield Town striker responded to that disappointment by grabbing the goal which rocked the Russians.

McGinn set it up by getting behind his man and delivering the perfect ball from the byeline on the right and Paterson rose to steer a sublime header beyond the reach of Akinfeev.

In the 58th minute Paterson and Northern Ireland briefly thought they had a second.

Shane Ferguson’s corner was played back across goal by Craig Cathcart and headed in by Paterson, only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations.

Northern Ireland continued to play their hearts out, with their belief visibly expanding.

Russia became increasingly frustrated and, in the end, failed to get the result they needed to go top of Group F.

The night belonged to Northern Ireland and manager O’Neill.

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