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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
N Ireland 2-0 Azerbaijan
Stuart Elliott produced a glorious free-kick for Northern Ireland
Goals from Stuart Elliott and Warren Feeney earned Northern Ireland a deserved victory over Azerbaijan in their World Cup qualifier.

The home side's pressure was rewarded on the hour when Hull winger Elliott curled in a superb 25-yard free-kick.

Feeney's strike came from the penalty spot with five minutes to go after the lively Keith Gillespie had been fouled.

The visitors rarely threatened as Northern Ireland completed their first competitive win in four years.

Azerbaijan produced their best moments in the opening 15 minutes and home side had an early let-off when a long ball from Makhmum Gurbanov found Zaud Tagizade but the winger pulled the ball across the face of goal.

Northern Ireland's first serious attack saw James Quinn get on the end of a deep Keith Gillespie cross but the ball was cleared to safety.

Quinn had the ball in the Azerbaijan net on 33 minutes the effort but was ruled out as he had barged into goalkeeper Dmitry Kramarenko.

A minute later, Quinn latched onto another Gillespie cross but the Peterborough man's header went just wide.

David Healy had to go off because of a knock in the second half
David Healy battles with Aftandil Hajiyev in the first half

Aston Villa youngster Davis then wasted a glorious chance to put Northern Ireland ahead when he somehow stabbed the ball wide from close-range after some sloppy play in the Azerbaijan defence.

Northern Ireland continued to press after half-time and their efforts were eventually rewarded on the hour when Elliott floated a glorious 25-yard free-kick over the wall and into the top corner.

Elliott's delightful curling effort gave goalkeeper Kramarenko absolutely no chance and the celebrations on the Northern Ireland bench told what the goal meant to the squad after the difficult build-up to the match.

The Hull striker was inches away from adding a second goal 10 minutes later but his close-range header was inches wide of the Azerbaijan goal.

However, the Irish did add to their lead with five minutes left after Gillespie had been hauled down in the box by Rafael Amirbekov.

Warren Feeney, who had come on for David Healy, calmly sidefooted home from the spot to make the game safe for Lawrie Sanchez's side.

The win is a badly-needed boost for the Irish ahead of Wednesday's qualifier against England at Windsor Park.


Northern Ireland:Taylor, Baird, Hughes, Craigan, Capaldi, Gillespie, Johnson, Davis, Elliott (Robinson 89), Healy (Jones 79), Quinn (Feeney 72).
Subs Not Used: Ingham, Brunt, Sproule, Murdock.

Goals:: Elliott 60, Feeney 85 pen.

AzerbaijanKramarenko, Amirbekov, Tagizade (Nabiev 84), Muzika, Imamaliyev, Makhmud Gurbanov (Ponomaryov 65), Sadygov, Guliyev, Hajivev, Kerimov, Aliyev (Shukurov 74).
Subs Not Used: Hasanzade, Guliev, Alim Gurbanov, Melikov.

Booked:Guliyev, Aliyev, Amirbekov, Sadygov.

Att:14,000

Ref:Dejan Stanisic (Serbia & Montenegro).


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez


Interview: Northern Ireland's Keith Gillespie




SEE ALSO
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31 Aug 05 |  Internationals


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