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Belarus 2 (Shcherbachenia 16,67)>
Northern Ireland 3 (McGuinness 2, Furness pen 61, Voskobovich og 70)
Belarus 2 (Shcherbachenia 16,67)
Northern Ireland kept their Euro 2022 play-off dream alive after beating a stubborn Belarus side in a five-goal thriller at Seaview.
The result means that they will be guaranteed second place in the group if they beat the Faroe Islands in their final match on Tuesday.
Kenny Shiels' side were given the best possible start with just two minutes on the clock, Kirsty McGuinness releasing Emily Wilson on goal and after her shot was parried by Natalia Vaskabovich, McGuinness followed up to fire the rebound home and put her side ahead.
Northern Ireland thought they had doubled their lead ten minutes later as a Rachel Furness shot was fumbled by Vaskabovich and although the ball appeared to have crossed the line, play was waved on. This moment was to become even more significant as Anastasija-Grazyna Shcherbachenia chased a through ball from Anastasiya Novikava and beat Rebecca Flaherty before slotting home for the equaliser.
Furness fired over and Demi Vance forced a save from Vaskabovich whilst at the other end, Flaherty needed to save from Anastasiya Shlapakova as the teams ended the first half on level terms.
Northern Ireland stepped up the pace after the interval with Ashley Hutton heading narrowly over from a McGuinness free kick and Vaskabovich saved from a low strike by Marissa Callaghan.
However just after the hour mark, Vance floated a free kick into the area where Furness was hauled down by a defender and a penalty was awarded. Furness picked herself up to plant her shot into the corner of the net and her side were back in front.
Parity was restored after just six minutes though; a hasty clearance was seized on by Hanna Pilipenka whose pass picked out Shcherbachenia to tuck her shot past Flaherty for her second goal on the night.
Northern Ireland's response was swift, first Wilson had a shot saved and a minute later, the striker picked out McGuinness on the left, the winger advancing before drilling a shot which struck the post before hitting Vaskabovich on the back of the head and bouncing back into the net.
The home side lost Vance with an injury, replaced by Abbie Magee, and were put under late pressure as Belarus sought an equaliser but this time, their defending was far more composed. Hanna Kaziupa fired a shot inches over and a late Belarus free kick caused anxious moments but Northern Ireland were able to see out the game and put themselves in control of their own destiny with one match still to play.
Northern Ireland: Rebecca Flaherty, Demi Vance (sub Abbie Magee 76mins), Julie Nelson, Ashley Hutton, Chloe McCarron, Marissa Callaghan, Nadene Caldwell, Kirsty McGuinness (sub Samantha Kelly 89mins), Rachel Furness, Lauren Wade, Emily Wilson (sub Ciara Watling 86mins). Subs not used: Lauren Perry, Kelsie Burrows, Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Joely Andrews, Caitlin McGuinness, Danielle Maxwell, Kerry Beattie.
Belarus: Natalia Vaskabovich, Anastasiya Novikava, Viktoryia Kazakevich, Hanna Kaziupa, Anastasiya Kharlanava (sub Karyna Olkhovik 45mins), Anastassia Shuppo, Valeryia Bohdan, Hanna Pilipenka (sub Kseniya Kubichnaya 78mins), Anastasiya Linnik, Anastasiya Shlapakova (sub Tatsiana Krasnova 78mins), Anastasiha-Grazyna Shcherbachenia. Subs not used: Katerina Miklashevich, Maryia Svidunovich, Nastassia Papova, Hanna Sas, Anastasiya Pabiahalia, Melana Surautsava, Vita Nikalayenka, Valeryia Karachun, Ektaterina Kovalchuk.
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