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Azerbaijan post first win against Northern Irish

Azerbaijan 2-0 Northern Ireland
Strikes from Rüfat Dadaşov and Mahir Shukurov steered the home team to their first victory in qualifying Group F.

Azerbaijan celebrate on their way to a first win in the section
Azerbaijan celebrate on their way to a first win in the section ©Victoria Melnik

Azerbaijan climbed off the foot of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F thanks to a 2-0 victory against Northern Ireland.

Berti Vogts's team had failed to win any of their previous eight qualifiers and the early signs did not augur well for the hosts. They slowly wrested back the initiative, however, and went in front when Rüfat Dadaşov struck 13 minutes after the interval. Northern Ireland's misery was compounded when Jonny Evans was sent off and Mahir Shukurov curled in the resulting 95th-minute free-kick.  

In a contest that was slow to ignite Chris Brunt almost lit the fuse. Drifting in from the left, the West Bromwich Albion FC winger sent a venomous right-footed shot towards the far corner that Kamran Agayev tipped wide. Moments later, Martin Paterson pick-pocketed Elnur Allahverdiyev on the byline and centred for Jamie Ward, whose header was repelled at point-blank range.

At the other end, Dadaşov fired centimetres wide from Mahir Shukurov's right-wing cross. A breathless opening period concluded with Paterson combining with Ward inside the area before eliciting a fine fingertip save from Agayev.

The start of the second half bore an uncanny resemblance to the first, with both sides squandering chances before Azerbaijan broke through. The goal owed much to Araz Abdullayev's defence-splitting through ball for Rauf Aliyev, whose cutback was finished with aplomb by Dadaşov. With the clock ticking down, Evans was dismissed for upending Dadaşov on the edge of the box and Shukurov found the top corner.