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Northern Irish post third straight win in Greece

Greece 0-2 Northern Ireland
Goals early in each half from Jamie Ward and Kyle Lafferty secured a third successive victory to keep Michael O'Neill's side top of Group F.

Highlights: Greece v Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland continue their perfect start with a third Group F win
Jamie Ward gives the visitors a ninth-minute lead
Kyle Lafferty gets his third goal in as many qualifiers on the break (51)
Greece are eight points off the pace having lost two of their three matches
Next games: Greece v Faroe Islands, Romania v Northern Ireland (14 November)

Having never avoided defeat in Greece on three previous visits, Northern Ireland improved on that record in memorable style with a win that kept Michael O'Neill's side clear at the top of Group F.

With Greece having taken one point from their first two European Qualifiers, it was perhaps little surprise Claudio Ranieri's team began hesitantly and Northern Ireland were quick to capitalise. Oliver Norwood delivered the ninth-minute corner that landed at the feet of the unmarked Jamie Ward, and the midfielder's left-foot shot deflected past goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.

Greece needed to attack and did, but found it hard going against a Northern Ireland side high on confidence having beaten Hungary and the Faroe Islands. Roy Carroll's goal was seldom threatened by a series of high balls and crosses, although the hosts might have levelled when Nikos Karelis broke free on the counterattack, but the 37-year-old Carroll was alert to the danger.

Despite some fruitless possession for Greece, the visitors almost went in for the interval two goals to the good when Kyle Lafferty outpaced Kostas Manolas. His attempt was kept out by the woodwork, but there was no similar let-off for Greece six minutes into the second period.

The 2004 European champions had switched to a 4-3-3 at the break, introducing Andreas Samaris as they sought to dominate proceedings. However, in trying to attack, Greece dropped their guard at the back and Northern Ireland made the most of it. In a perfect example of transition from defence to attack, Lafferty picked up the ball on the halfway line, slipped past his marker and raced clear to shoot coolly beyond Karnezis.

Greece strove for a way back into the match but the away team's determination and high morale held them at bay, much to the delight of the 600 travelling supporters.

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