By Jay Mwamba
Northern Ireland got their European Championship qualifying hopes back on track with a 1-0 victory over Finland in a Group 3 match watched by 10,000 fans at Windsor Park in Belfast last weekend.
Defender Keith Rowland drove in a powerful low shot on the half hour to lift the North over the Finns and give manager Lawrie McMenemy his first competitive victory since his appointment last February.
The more resourceful team on the day, the Irish were denied a more comprehensive victory by Finnish goalie Antti Neimi, who pulled off a number of brilliant saves, including one from a wicked 25-yard shot by Neil Lennon.
Trounced 3-0 by Turkey in their first qualifier last month, the North (3 points) moved into third place in Group 3 ahead of today’s third round of matches.
And there were no changes in Ireland’s Group 8, even with Croatia thrashing Malta 4-1, and the Ireland-Yugoslavia qualifier being scratched. Croatia, who face leaders Macedonia today, triumphed in Valetta with goals by Dario Simic (54th), Davor Vugovic (68th, 74th) and Davor Suker (85th). Ireland kick off against Malta in Dublin, still second in the group.
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It was a weekend of surprises and shocks, as defending
European champions Germany were stunned 1-0 by Turkey, and England could manage only a goalless tie with Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium.