San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland: Dion Charles scores twice as NI win on Michael O’Neill’s return

Dion Charles scored his first two Northern Ireland goals
Dion Charles scored his first two Northern Ireland goals

Michael O’Neill’s second spell as manager got off to a winning start as Dion Charles gave Northern Ireland a 2–0 win in San Marino.

The Bolton striker, in top form, calmed his team’s nerves with his first international goal on 24 minutes and added a second shortly after the break.

NI got the expected win as they began their Euro 2024 bid against the lowest ranked team in the world.

O’Neill’s men host Finland at Windsor Park on Sunday.

The Finns lost to top seed Denmark in Wednesday night’s other Group H match, while Slovenia had opened the group with a 2-1 away win over Kazakhstan.

A chant of ‘We love you Michael, we do’ blared from Northern Ireland’s ever-vocal traveling support of 1,000 as they welcomed the coach who led them to the Euro 2016 final during his successful first term. which ended abruptly in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having won just four times in 24 competitive matches with Ian Baraclough since then, San Marino invited opponents for O’Neill’s return as they are now winless in their 167 competitive matches and sit 211th in the rankings. of FIFA.

Youngsters Shea Charles and Conor Bradley delivered hugely mature and impressive performances for Northern Ireland, while Everton youngster Isaac Price joined Cameron McGeehan to make his senior international debut in the second half.

Charles awards O’Neill with double

Charles’s first goal came on 24 minutes and it was a shot delivered with the arrogance and technique of a very confident man in front of goal, who has scored 18 times for Bolton Wanderers so far this season.

Poised throughout as he deputized for injured captain Steven Davis in the deep midfield role, Man City teenager Shea Charles found the ever-ready Conor Washington with a fine pass down the right channel and delivered an excellent low cross for the first time. time. for his strike partner.

Charles had to watch closely as the ball bounced before reaching him at the far post before superbly controlling the finish to open his account for Northern Ireland in his fourteenth cap.

Charles headed in his second 10 minutes after the break, once again being in the right place at the right time to meet Jamal Lewis’ excellent cross from the left with a header from point-blank range that seemed to unbalance Benedettini who was met with an outstretched hand. . on the ball, but he couldn’t help it.

It led to choruses of ‘Dion’s on fire’, a twist on an old favorite many will no doubt remember from the Euro 2016 final, and it definitely showed how important it is for an international team to have a striker who regularly scores goals at youth level. club. .

Charles’ first goal was well timed for the away team, who had been well ahead up until then, but he was frustrated that a series of set pieces failed, while some players seemed to have trouble staying on their feet as they slid towards the area. floor.

Paddy McNair had the only significant chance before the opening goal arrived, aside from a scare for the hosts when Filippo Berardi passed and forced a save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell before being flagged for offside, but his header hit the post down from George Saville The cross was well saved by goalkeeper Elia Benedettini.

The calming effect of taking the lead was clearly visible as O’Neill’s men began to create a series of good chances, with Saville finishing from a fine Bradley cross and Dion Charles simply unable to stretch long enough to push home a beautiful , inviting the cross of his namesake Shea.

However, the best chance for Northern Ireland to double their lead fell to full-back Lewis just before half-time, but the Newcastle United man tried unsuccessfully to convert Dion Charles’s perfect cross off his left foot as he looked ready to shoot. with his right in front of the goal.

The second half petered out a bit over the last half hour, although there was a scare for Northern Ireland when Nicola Nanni went through and scored for the visitors on 67 minutes, but the flag was raised for offside once his shot found network.


San Marino

Training 5-3-2

  • 23Benedettini
  • elevenBattistini
  • 4Fabbri
  • 13di maio
  • 6rossisubstituted forcévoliin Four. Five’minutes
  • 3palacessubstituted forcoughin Four. Five’minutes
  • 17golinucci
  • twenty-onecappuccinossubstituted forBattistiniin 72′minutes
  • 14lazzari
  • 10Berardisubstituted forrinaldiin 60′minutes
  • 18nannisubstituted forvitaioliin 85′minutes


  • 1simoncini
  • 2D’Addario
  • 5cévoli
  • 7vitaioli
  • 8lunadei
  • 9ceccaroli
  • 12Benedettini
  • fifteencough
  • sixteenrinaldi
  • 19franciosi
  • twentyHirsch
  • 22Battistini

North Ireland

Training 3-5-2

  • 1peacock-farrell
  • 4Ballardsubstituted forMcGeehanin 67′minutes
  • twentycatheterization
  • 22BrownBooked at 43 minutessubstituted forPricein 82′minutes
  • 2bradley
  • 17McNair
  • 19Charles
  • 6savilesubstituted forthompsonin 73′minutes
  • 3Luissubstituted forfergusonin 74′minutes
  • 10Charles
  • 9Washingtonsubstituted formagennisin 67′minutes


  • 5smoke
  • 7total
  • 8McGeehan
  • elevenferguson
  • 12Danger
  • 13Price
  • 14Goss
  • fifteenthompson
  • sixteenTaylor
  • 18because
  • twenty-onemagennis
  • 23Southwood

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