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Page last updated at 19:12 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Northern Ireland 3-2 Poland

Jonny Evans volleyed home from close range
Jonny Evans volleyed home from close range

By Alvin McCaig

Northern Ireland moved top of their World Cup qualifying group after this impressive win at a sunny Windsor Park.

Warren Feeney finished from close range after 10 minutes but Poland levelled when Maik Taylor failed to keep out Ireneusz Jelen's shot.

Jonny Evans slid in to restore the lead and Northern Ireland went further ahead when Michal Zewlakow's backpass bobbled past keeper Artur Boruc.

Marek Saganowski pulled one back with a header but Northern Ireland held on.

The result took Nigel Worthington's side a point clear in Group Three after Slovenia and the Czech Republic, who started the day level with Northern Ireland on seven points, played out a scoreless draw.

Northern Ireland will now look to further improve their position when they take on Slovenia on Wednesday.

They made a positive start to the game when a superb Chris Brunt pass sent Feeney clear after three minutes but the Dundee United striker fired just wide.

An under-hit back-pass from Michal Zewlakow let in Healy five minutes later but the usually deadly marksman struck a weak shot which was kept out by Celtic keeper Boruc before the ball was scrambled away.

Warren Feeney

NI striker Warren Feeney dedicates his goal to his mother as she recovers from a broken leg

The deserved breakthrough came, however, when Boruc failed to collect Brunt's high cross to the back-post and Damien Johnston headed back to give Feeney the simple task of tapping in from four yards.

Poland levelled with their first meaningful attack as Jelen beat the offside trap, raced clear and produced a shot of such power that Taylor could only slow the ball down on its way into the net.

Play was stopped for over two minutes after an assistant referee was struck on the head by a coin, thrown from a section containing Northern Ireland fans.

When the action resumed, the tireless Feeney twice fired wide before the break as the home side failed to make their dominance count.


That all changed at the start of the second half when Grant McCann sent in an inswinging corner and Manchester United defender Evans supplied the volleyed finish from six yards.

Brunt then picked up a yellow card for a clumsy tackle which means he will miss the qualifier against Slovenia.

Luck favoured the hosts on 61 minutes when Boruc attempted to clear from a routine back-pass from Zewlakow but the ball bobbled over his swinging foot before rolling into an empty net.

Poland went close to pulling a goal back in the 78th minute with Southampton's Saganowski heading wide at the back-post.

Rangers striker Andrew Little made his senior debut when he replaced Healy with a minute left.

Saganowski made no mistake with his second chance in the first minute of added time, as he dived to head the ball into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, McAuley, Craigan, Hughes, Evans, Johnson, Clingan, McCann, Brunt, Healy (Little 90), Feeney (Baird 83).
Subs Not Used: Mannus, McGivern, McGinn, Shiels, Ward.

Booked: Brunt.

Goals: Feeney 10, Evans 47, Zewlakow 61 og.

Poland: Boruc, Wasilewski, Dudka, Zewlakow (Bosacki 65), Wawrzyniak, Mariusz Lewandowski, Roger, Krzynowek, Bandrowski (Blaszczykowski 60), Robert Lewandowski, Jelen (Saganowski 71).
Subs Not Used: Zaluska, Wojtkowiak, Boguski, Tralka.

Booked: Roger, Wasilewski, Krzynowek.

Goals: Jelen 27, Saganowski 90.

Att: 14,907

Ref: Martin Hansson (Sweden).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans (7.73 on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Worthington targets more success
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals
International football as it happened
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Saturday's football photos
28 Mar 09 |  Football
McCourt to miss N Ireland matches
20 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Striker Ward in N Ireland call-up
12 Mar 09 |  Internationals
Player Rater
28 Mar 09 |  Internationals

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