Northern Ireland's senior women's team got back to winning ways with a narrow 2-1 victory over Luxembourg this evening.
Second half goals from Sarah McFadden and Rebecca McKenna were enough to secure all three points in a FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier at Stade Émile Mayrisch, in Esch-sur-Alzette.
It could have been more comfortable for Kenny Shiels' side who spurned several chances in the game.
But the win means Northern Ireland have definitely finished third in European Group D in the qualifiers for next year's global tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Shiels' team pushed forward from the start. Captain Marissa Callaghan headed a Demi Vance corner over the top in the ninth minute.
Luxembourg, showing five changes from the team that lost 4-0 to Northern Ireland in a Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier in Larne last September, rarely threatened but when they did Northern Ireland stalwarts Sarah McFadden and Julie Nelson were usually on hand to snuff out any danger.
Louise McDaniel sped down the right before pulling the ball back to Joely Andrews whose rasping drive was superbly pushed away by Luxembourg keeper Lucie Schlime.
Nelson then headed a Vance delivery from a free-kick off target before a swift Luxembourg counter-attack ended with Marta Estevez putting a shot inches past the post.
A deflected Chloe McCarron effort from distance squirmed past the upright as Northern Ireland continued to push forward.
From a corner Andrews fed Vance just outside the area. She let fly but the ball went over the top.
Kirsty McGuinness danced around a couple of defenders inside the penalty area but could not get a shot off.
On 33 minutes Caitlin McGuinness neatly turned her marker inside the area and was unlucky to see her powerful drive cannon off the crossbar.
Callaghan had a shot blocked as the girls in green and white continued to threaten. Shiels made a triple substitution after the break with Nadene Caldwell, Caragh Hamilton and Rebecca Holloway entering the fray.
Within minutes of the restart Schlime was making another important stop, getting down quickly to block a Caitlin McGuinness strike.
Northern Ireland deservedly took the lead in the 53rd minute when McFadden rose highest to head home a pinpoint Vance delivery from a corner.
Minutes later Caldwell drove the ball into the side netting as Northern Ireland went for the jugular, before Callaghan's low drive was kept out by Schlime and Caldwell steered another shot against the base of the post.
On 68 minutes Callaghan slipped past the keeper inside the area, however her cross from out wide was cleared by the home defence.
Another strong Vance delivery from a corner was headed wide by Nelson, while Hamilton set up Kirsty McGuinness but she failed to connect with the ball.
Schlime was called upon again when she comfortably held a Vance shot from distance.
Luxembourg equalised against the run of play on 79 minutes. Amy Thompson nicked the ball off Nelson and curled in a cross-cum-shot which Jackie Bums got her fingertips to, however the Northern Ireland keeper could not prevent the ball from nestling in the top corner.
Thompson's elation at hitting the back of the net was shortlived though. The winger, who had picked up a booking earlier in the game, was red-carded by Croatian referee Jelena Pejković, for partially removing her shirt as she celebrated scoring.
McKenna grabbed the winner on 35 minutes. Nelson slid a pass to her on the edge of the area and she strode forward before slamming the ball low into the far comer. It was a neat finish and it also meant Northern Ireland tasted victory again after their six defeats in a row against top tier teams in the run-up to and at UEFA Women's Euro 2022 in July.
Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns, Rebecca McKenna, Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Julie Nelson, Joely Andrews, Chloe McCarron, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Caitlin McGuinness, Louise McDaniel, Kirsty McGuinness. Substitutes: (used) Nadene Caldwell, Caragh Hamilton, Rebecca Holloway, Abbie Magee; (unused) Shannon Turner, Lille Woods, Grace Mckimm, Lauren Wade (injured), Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Ellie Mason, Emily Wilson, Kerry Beattie.
Luxembourg: Lucie Schlime, Kimberley Dos Santos, Wpemie Tiberi, Catherine Have, Emma Kremer, Caroline Jorge, Laura Miller (captain), Marisa Soares Marques, Amy Thompson, Charlotte Schmit, Marta Estevez. Substitutes: Emma Goetz (GK), Anais K (Weyer (GK), Nathalie Ludwig, Ashley Delgado Do Rosario, Jessica Becker, Joana Lourenco Maps/ARRF, Kelly Mendes, Martine Schon, Julie Marques Abreu, Edina Kocan, Mariana Lourenco Magalhaes, Isabel Albert.