Northern Ireland recover superbly from an early setback to beat the Faroe Islands 5-1 and keep their history-making Euro 2022 dream alive.

Northern Ireland book play-off spot with victory over Faroe Islands
Northern Ireland recovered superbly from an early setback to beat the Faroe Islands 5-1 and keep their history-making Euro 2022 dream alive.
The win secured the play-off that gives Northern Ireland the chance to qualify for a first major women’s tournament.
Rachel Furness scored twice with Chloe McCarron and the McGuinness sisters – Kirsty and Caitlin – also on target.
Jensa Kannuberg Torolvsdottir put the visitors ahead but Furness quickly levelled as the home side took control.
It was a fourth consecutive qualifying victory for Kenny Shiels’ confident side, who can now look forward to a two-legged play-off next spring for a place in the 2022 finals in England.
The fact there were no supporters in the north Belfast stadium did not stop fantastic scenes of celebration on the pitch at the final whistle between the Northern Ireland players, coaching staff and officials.
Having taken two points from their opening four games before the coronavirus outbreak, Northern Ireland knew they had to win all four remaining matches to have a chance of reaching the play-offs – and they did just that.
It means a country that has never been close to reaching a major tournament before could be just two matches from creating history and giving the women’s game in Northern Ireland the biggest lift it has ever had.
Kirsty McGuinness put Northern Ireland with a magnificent strike after the visitors had taken a shock lead at Seaview
McGuinness and Furness lead recovery
Northern Ireland went into the match as strong favourites but they were stunned by a fourth-minute opener from the inexperienced visitors, with Kara Djurhuus’s shot deflecting off Julie Nelson and into the path of Torolvsdottir, who swept home from close range.
Northern Ireland were level within two minutes. Kirsty McGuinness played a short corner to McCarron. Her cross found Furness, with the Liverpool striker finding the net with a header that looked like it may have deflected off team-mate Ashley Hutton.
The home side’s second goal was a beautiful strike from McGuinness. A good run and pass by Wade set the Sion Swifts winger up and, after threatening to shoot with her left, she cut inside and found the far corner of the net with a curling right-foot effort.
Northern Ireland’s third 11 minutes after the break was even better, impressive midfielder McCarron picking up the ball and unleashing a dipping shot from 25 yards that gave the visiting goalkeeper no chance.
There was further history made with the fourth on 77 minutes when 19-year-old substitute Caitlin McGuinness finished well to mark the first time she and prolific older sister Kirsty had been on the pitch together for Northern Ireland.
Furness, a constant threat throughout, claimed her second three minutes from time thanks to a major deflection off defender Brita Ryan which diverted her back-post effort in.
Senior players star on watershed night
Shiels said in the build-up to this match that a chance to reach a play-off for a major tournament was “payback” for a group of senior players who have been faithful servants to the Northern Ireland women’s team.
Stalwarts such as Julie Nelson, Hutton and Furness have suffered numerous unsuccessful qualifying campaigns during their 15-year international careers and, along with captain Marissa Callaghan, they will have savoured this win as much as anyone.
In particular, Nelson was superb in a back three alongside Ashley Hutton and Sarah McFadden, who replaced the injured Demi Vance, as they provided a strong platform for the side to play the expansive style that their manager demands.
Nelson, well used to the Seaview pitch as a Crusaders player, continually brought the ball out from the back before delivering searching passes forward, with the diagonal ball to McGuinness on the left particularly effective.
Furness was full of running throughout and, added to her ability to find pockets of space in front of the visitors’ back four, she well deserved to claim two goals even if deflections played a part in both.
Kenny Shiels and his son Dean have instilled belief in the Northern Ireland players
Shiels integral to NI’s new-found confidence
Shiels was perhaps a surprise choice when he was appointed manager in May 2019, taking over when Alfie Wylie stepped down after a 15-year spell at the helm.
Having won trophies in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, his managerial pedigree was strong, but the former Kilmarnock boss’ three-year reign at Derry City had ended with the sack seven months earlier.
He said from the outset he wanted to introduce an attacking, progressive style of play and, even after 6-0 defeats by Norway in two of his first three matches, he was confident the squad had the ability to deliver.
Working with a squad packed with Irish Premiership players, he spent the time on the training pitch after lockdown wisely, with many members of the squad reflecting in recent weeks on the positivity and belief he has instilled in them.
Credit must also go to his son, Dean, who Shiels brought in as a coach, with the former Northern Ireland striker taking a leading role in training sessions and helping to implement the forward-thinking strategy favoured by his father.
The manager could often be heard instructing his players to keep the ball moving more quickly, and whatever he was saying worked as his side ran out fantastic winners on a historic night.