Stuart Dallas’s last gasp strike stoppage-time strike earned Northern Ireland. A smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Azerbaijan that kept his team firml
Missing eight players from the squad that went to France and without Gareth McAuley. After a first-half injury, Michael O’Neill’s side struggled in the Baku heat. And were thankful to the profligacy of Afran Ismayilov.
The Azeris had been shell-shocked by the Northern Irish tactics in a 4-0 loss in November. Conceding three times from dead-ball situations. And the first set piece here came in the third minute.
Evans glanced over from the corner and after some nervy early moments Robert Prosinecki’s defence settled into a composed unit that strung together lengthy spells of possession.
The signs that this could be Northern Ireland’s night grew when Ismayilov blazed over as he closed on goal but there was still a sense of disbelief around the ground when Dallas scored in the second minute of stoppage time.
He owed much to Evans’s decision to square it to him rather than shooting .
The Leeds midfielder steadied himself before firing into the corner to spark jubilant scenes among the 300 or so travelling fans. Who will now have a bit more hope that they might be travelling this far east again next summer.
World Cup qualifying roundup
Slovakia are now only two points behind England in Group F, after a 2-1 win in Lithuania. Goals from Vladimir Weiss and Marek Hamsik put them 2-0 up, before Darvydas Sernas’s late consolation.
Earlier, while Scotland and England were playing out their thrilling draw in Glasgow. Slovenia maintained their push for a place in Russia as goals from Josip Ilicic.
Milivoje Novakovic gave them a 2-0 win over Malta in Ljubljana.The victors remain in third.
Shkodran Mustafi increased Germany’s lead early in the second half and Julian Brandt headed.The sixth before Wagner completed his hat-trick – and Germany’s scoring – with a header of his own five minutes from time last gasp strike.