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Friday 12 Nov 2021
NI U21s ease to victory over Lithuania U21s

Northern Ireland Under-21s swept to a dominant four-goal victory over Lithuania in their Euro qualifier at the Ballymena Showgrounds this afternoon.

Alfie McCalmont found the net twice, once in each half, with the other goals coming through Paul O'Neill and Christopher Conn-Clarke.

The visitors came close to opening the scoring as early as the fourth minute when Nauris Petkevičius had a go from around 25-yards with a right-foot effort which brushed against the post.

However Northern Ireland edged in front just four minutes after that. Paddy Lane did well to send over a cross from wide on the left which Ryan Waide flicked back across the area for McCalmont to send a decisively struck first time shot into the corner of the net from 12 yards.

Lane then went on a run after a quarter-of-an-hour, going past a couple of defenders only for Gustas Baliutavičius to get down well to save while, at the other end, Titas Milašius saw his rising effort from distance touched over the top by Liam Hughes for a corner.

Lithuania continued to seek a way back into the game with Tomas Kalinauskas the next to threaten but his effort from the left side of the area ended up on the roof of the net.

Northern Ireland might have doubled their advantage after half-an-hour. Oisin Smyth sent a backheel into McCalmont's path to which the Morecambe man responded with a snapshot which Baliutavičius could only keep out with a sprawling save.

Play switched ends once again not long after that with Milašius sending a pacy left-foot drive from almost 30 yards fizzing just the wrong side of the target.

John Schofield's side came close once more on 37 minutes. Again Lane provided the cross with Trai Hume this time offering up a spinning effort from inside the area which caused problems for Baliutavičius who could only stop it from going in at the second attempt.

However, Northern Ireland's deserved second goal did arrive three minutes from the break. Waide did very well to keep the ball alive before bringing it into the box whereupon he was upended by Vilius Armalas and, from the spot-kick that followed, O'Neill confidently stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way.

It might have been 3-0 early in the second half after McCalmont whipped over a corner from the left to which Lane connected with a header to direct into the net but Estonian referee Joonas Jaanovits ruled the 'goal' out after spotting a foul in the box.

The Under-21s continued to show plenty of endeavour as the game progressed, albeit without any final product in front of goal.

But that all changed with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining when McCalmont grabbed his second of the afternoon. Waide displayed plenty of tenacity to bring the ball into the area to find John McGovern who, in turn, touched the ball on for McCalmont to strike from just outside the six yard box.

Chasing his hat-trick, McCalmont went close five minutes after that only to send a low effort from the edge of the area just the wrong side of the right post.

Northern Ireland's fourth came with just three minutes left on the clock as substitute Conn-Clarke completed the scoring with a perfectly executed free-kick from around 25 yards which he curled up and over the well before creeping in at the left upright.

The U21s are next in action on Tuesday evening (16th) when they take on Malta at Mourneview Park, kick-off 7:30pm.

Northern Ireland U21s: Hughes, Hume, Donnelly, Balmer, Cousin-Dawson, Boyd-Munce, O'Neill, McCalmont, Waide, Smyth, Lane subs Webber (not used), Charles (replaced Donnelly 82), Scott (replaced Lane 90+1), Baggley (not used), McGovern (replaced O'Neill 71), McKiernan (not used), Conn-Clarke (replaced Boyd-Munce 71), Johnston (replaced Waide 82), Anderson (not used)

Lithuania U21s: Baliutavičius, Tutyškinas, Zubauskas, Armalas, Petkevičius, Milašius, N. Žebrauskas, Uzėla, Ramanauskas, Kalinauskas, Jansonas subs Stebrys (not used), Stankevičius (not used), Dovydaitis (replaced Petkevičius 52), K. Žebrauskas (replaced Ramanauskas 86), Klimavičius (replaced Kalinauskas 67), Park (not used), Zabita (not used), Burba (replaced Zubauskas 66), Anisas (replaced Milašius 86)