Northern Ireland netted a 1-0 win over Luxembourg in an international challenge match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Thursday evening (September 5).
An own goal from Luxembourg defender Kevin Malget proved to be the difference between the two sides in a low-key affair.
With a crucial UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany looming on Monday (September 9), manager Michael O’Neill opted to rest established centre-backs Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart. In came Cardiff City’s Ciaron Brown to make his debut and there was also a second international start for Sunderland’s Tom Flanagan.
Blackpool midfielder Jordan Thompson was also given his first start while Leeds United's Alfie McCalmont and Manchester United's Ethan Galbraith made their international bows as second-half substitutes.
The majority of the first half was quiet and chances were at a premium. But Northern Ireland made the breakthrough thanks to a calamitous own goal from the visitors on 38 minutes when Malget headed into his own net.
Luxembourg carved an opening early in the second session when Oliver Thill let fly from outside the box but his left-footed strike failed to trouble Bailey Peacock-Farrell as he watched it blaze over the crossbar.
Thompson and Gavin Whyte both had penalty appeals waved away before Shayne Lavery flashed a shot into the side netting, rousing the Green and White Army.
On 73 minutes bright spark Lavery picked out Thompson with a pin-point left-wing cross but the Newtownanabbey man's shot was off target.
Motherwell's Liam Donnelly, who replaced match captain Corry Evans, went close again on 77 minutes but he was thwarted when his shot low drilled shot was blocked by onrushing ‘keeper Ralph Schon.
It's now on to Monday evening as Northern Ireland aim to cement their place at the top of Group C when they go head-to-head with the Germans (19.45 kick-off).
Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell (McGovern ’67), C. McLaughlin, Flanagan, Brown, Ferguson, Whyte (Galbraith ’89), C. Evans (c) (Donnelly ‘67), Saville (McCalmont ’60), Thompson (Davis ’88), Lafferty (Lavery ’59), Magennis.
Unused subs: Carson, Lewis, McGinn, Sykes, Burns, McNair.
Luxembourg: Moris (Schon ‘45), Malget (Hall ‘45), Gerson, V. Thill (Bohnert ’86), Carlson, Sinani (Da Mota ’74), O.Thill, Barreiro (Philipps ‘73) Martins, Rodrigues, Jans (c), Deville (Turpel ’60).
Unused subs: Skenderovic, Selimovic, Martins, Olesen, Joachim, Kips.
Official attendance: 14,108