San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland: Dion Charles scores twice, Michael O’Neill starts second run with victory | football news

Michael O’Neill tasted victory over San Marino on his return to the bench; Dion Charles drove home in the 24th minute and headed in a second 10 minutes into the second half as Northern Ireland opened their Group H account with three points.

22:05 UK Thursday 23 March 2023

Dion Charles’ first international goals handed Northern Ireland a 2–0 Euro 2024 qualifying victory over San Marino as Michael O’Neill made a winning start to his second spell in charge.

Charles broke his international duck when he pushed home on 24 minutes, and then headed home a second 10 minutes into the second half as Northern Ireland opened their Group H account with three points.

Charles had gone 13 caps without scoring before this game, but the goals were no surprise given that he has netted 18 in 42 appearances for Bolton this term. Northern Ireland, who have been searching for a reliable goalscorer for several years, hope this is just the start.

O’Neill, who returned in December to the job he left in 2020, had to wait until the tenth game of his first reign to win, but there was no such delay against a team bottom of the FIFA rankings and yet to win a competitive . international, this being his 167th attempt.

This was not the resounding victory that so many teams, including Northern Ireland, have enjoyed at Serravalle over the years, but O’Neill’s only concern was to pick up three points to jump-start the campaign and to that end, this was a case of work done before Sunday. home game against Finland.

Northern Ireland Team News

Conor Washington was fit to start Northern Ireland’s first Euro 2024 qualifier in San Marino, as manager Michael O’Neill delivered few surprises in his first selection since returning to charge.

The Rotherham Washington forward, subject to a fitness test before traveling, teamed up with Dion Charles in a two-front while O’Neill left in a 3-5-2 form, with captain Craig Cathcart joined by Dan Ballard and Ciaron Brown on defense.

Conor Bradley got the nod ahead of Trai Hume at right-back, while Manchester City teenager Shea Charles started in midfield alongside George Saville and Paddy McNair in the absence of Steven Davis.

It took just three minutes for the 1,000 traveling fans to ask for a greeting from the man who took them to Euro 2016 and the 53-year-old willingly complied.

Northern Ireland started slowly, enjoying the ball a lot but offering little penetration. O’Neill opted for a 3-5-2 system instead of his preferred 4-3-3, a decision perhaps forced given the long injured list that had denied him the services of so many veterans of his previous reign. .

Charles’ Bolton teammate Conor Bradley was the brightest spark, but many early moves failed before Northern Ireland could get the ball into the box like San Marino, who featured the 40-year-old debutant Roberto Di Maio in defense after he obtained citizenship in January held up well from the start.

Northern Ireland starting eleven

North Ireland:Peacock-Farrell, Ballard, Cathcart, Brown, Bradley, Shea Charles, Saville, Lewis, McNair, Dion Charles, Washington.

Substitutes: Thompson, Price, McGeehan, Ferguson, Magennis.

The first test for home goalkeeper Elia Benedettini came on 14 minutes when he deflected a Paddy McNair header as the Middlesbrough man was met by George Saville’s cross.

The tie was broken when Northern Ireland used a quick free kick to deflect the ball to the right and Conor Washington sent a low cross for his strike partner to swing to the far post.

Saville should have done better when Bradley broke away from his man to run into space on the right, but turned the cross over the crossbar, while Benedetti did well to deflect Bradley’s powerful shot around the post just before half time.

Charles and Roberto Di Maio of San Marino fight for the ball

Northern Ireland would have liked a second to settle the game before the break, but had to wait until the 55th minute, when Jamal Lewis sent a deep cross from the left and Charles ducked for a header.

Northern Ireland looked energized but were unable to capitalise. Bradley charged another shot down, Washington saw one drift into a corner, then fired another over the top.

The San Marino fans thought they were back, a rare goal to celebrate, just after the hour mark, but the assistant waited until Nicola Nanni got past Bailey Peacock-Farrell before raising the flag.

There were debuts off the bench for Cameron McGeehan, the 27-year-old Ostend midfielder, and Everton teenager Isaac Price before the end, but the game petered out in the last 10 minutes as the Green and White Army serenaded O ‘Neill from the bench. .

Whats Next?

North Ireland will host Finland in Group H qualifying for the European championship on Sunday at Windsor Park; start 7:45 p.m. San Marino face a one-way trip to Slovenia on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.


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