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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK
Three-goal Irish sink Iceland
Keith Gillespie
Northern Ireland hero Keith Gillespie on the charge
Northern Ireland 3-0 Iceland

Northern Ireland stormed to a marvellous World Cup qualifying victory over Iceland at Windsor Park.

Although their chances of qualifying had long evaporated, the manner in the victory will bring a much needed boost to manager Sammy McIlroy.

Second half goals from David Healy, Michael Hughes and debutant George McCartney did the trick to lead McIlroy into a merry dance.

Following their 1-1 draw against Denmark in Copenhagen last Saturday, there are definite signs that the Irish are finally coming out their reign of mediocrity.

Run ragged

Iceland were in with a chance of qualifying following their great 3-1 win over Czech Republic at the weekend and determined to go for the three points.

But after a subdued first half, the Northern Ireland boys just ran them ragged.

Leading the charge was a revitalised Keith Gillespie.

Right from the first whistle he tortured the Icelandic defence with his probing and crossing, particularly in that marvellous second period.

But there was a dream debut for George McCartney.


Gillespie tortures Iceland's Vidarsson
The Sunderland youngster had a superb game in the heart of the Northern Ireland defence with his anticipation and tackling.

But he put the icing on the cake with that 61st minute goal that made sure Northern Ireland were taking full points.

However, it was Blackburn's Gillespie who lead the Northern Ireland attacking options in a dull first half.

He took on Iceland left-back Arnar Thor Vidarsson on one early sortie, which ended unluckily in a goal-kick.

He was continually put in possession and the crowd was vocally stirred whenever he charged down the right wing.

However, Iceland menaced the Irish goal and Peter Kennedy conceded the first corner of the match of a swinging Johannes Gudjonsson's free-kick.

The Irish, though, also wanted the three points and Gillespie looked like he was trying to win the game single-handed.

David Healy (centre)
David Healy (centre) scored NI opener

He ran at the Icelandic defence at every opportunity unfortunately his final pass at time did let him him down on occasions.

One pass did manage to filter through to Healy in the right channel, but the Preston forward fired wide.

It was 25 minutes before Iceland keeper Arni Gautur Arason touched the ball.

Defender Danny Griffin made a charge upfield and fired in a shot which had the sting taken out as it deflected into Arason's arms.

Despite these brief flurries of action, the game on the whole was poor.

But before the break Gudjohnsen conjured up the best effort of the half just before the interval with a shot which fizzed just over Taylor's crossbar.

But the game was turned on its head three minutes after the restart.

The inspirational Gillespie whipped in a cross with the ball skimming off a defender's head and clear.

The ball bobbled around the 18-yard line but Healy pounced to drill in a wonderful goal with his right foot.

Nine minutes later the Irish boys nearly doubled their score when the hard-working Gillespie won possession down the right flank.

Provider

It was picked up by Philip Mulryne whose cross was headed goalwards by Healy for Arason to save.

Two minutes later Healy was again in thick of the action when Arason and Audun Helguson got themselves in a right old mess outside the area.

Michael Hughes (right)
Michael Hughes: Great second half

The ball bounced free but Healy's left-footed shot from 30 metres missed the open goal by a couple of yards.

But the Irish boys deservedly got that second goal in the 58th minute with Gillespie again the provider when he cross was tucked away by Hughes.

Three minites later it was 3-0 nil and that marvellous debut goal for McCartney when he was on the end of a tantilising far post cross by Gillespie.

Iceland only briefly threatened Northern Ireland with Gudjohnsen heading wide when a consolation goal looked on.

With one match remaining group leaders Denmark need a win at home to Iceland to secure qualification for the finals.

The Czech Republic and Bulgaria are also still in the running with finishing fourth.

Northern Ireland will finish fifth and hope for a winning finale when they tackle bottom side Malta who have only one point in the group.

Northern Ireland: 1-Maik Taylor; 2-Danny Griffin, 3-Peter Kennedy, 4-Aaron Hughes, 5-George McCartney, 6-Jim Magilton, 7-Keith Gillespie (13-Paul McVeigh 87), 8-Phil Mulryne, 9-David Healy, 10-Kevin Horlock, 11-Michael Hughes.

Iceland: 1-Arni Arason; 2-Audun Helguson (17-Heider Helguson 62), 3-Arnar Vidarsson, 4-Arnar Gretarsson, 5-Petur Marteinsson, 6-Johannes Gudjonsson, 7-Hermann Hreidarsson, 8-Eyjolfyr Sverrisson, 9-Eidur Gudjohnsen, 10-Helgi Sigurdsson (15-Marel Baldvinsson 86), 11-Andri Sigborsson.

Referee: Attila Hanacsek (Hungary).

See also:

05 Sep 01 |  World Cup 2002
Clockwatch: NI 3-0 Iceland
01 Sep 01 |  World Cup 2002
NI earn battling draw
06 Jun 01 |  World Cup 2002
Late goals deny Northern Ireland
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