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Lafferty leads Northern Ireland to Finland victory

Northern Ireland 2-1 Finland
Kyle Lafferty's first-half double ensured Northern Ireland tightened their grip on second spot in qualifying Group F.

Highlights: Northern Ireland 2-1 Finland

• Kyle Lafferty scores twice to bring his Group F haul to five
• Northern Ireland secure fourth win in five qualifying matches
• Berat Sadik notches his first international goal in stoppage time
• Finland forward Teemu Pukki suffers defeat on 25th birthday
Next qualifiers: Northern Ireland v Romania, Finland v Hungary (13 June)

Kyle Lafferty struck twice as Northern Ireland claimed their fourth victory from five UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying matches to ensure they stayed second in Group F. 

With both sides hoping to reach their first UEFA European Championship final tournament, an open game unfolded – and Michael O'Neill's team took advantage. Lafferty scored with a fine volley in the 33rd minute before adding another with an accurate header five minutes later. 

Finland's Teemu Pukki was celebrating his 25th birthday and looked to be enjoying it with a couple of lively runs in the early stages, before the first chance fell to the hosts as goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky produced a good save from Jamie Ward. 

There was nothing Hradecky could do soon after as Oliver Norwood's free-kick was cleared to Niall McGinn who headed across the face of goal for Lafferty to sweep in the opener. Lafferty then doubled the lead to bring his tally to five goals in qualification with a fine header from Conor McLaughlin's cross.

Northern Ireland began to play with even more confidence after the break, though Finland remained a threat as they flooded players forward in attack. McGinn had an excellent close-range opportunity to add a third and Lafferty spurned the chance for a hat-trick before he was taken off with cramp. Substitute Berat Sadik then prompted a nervy finish for the hosts by registering his first international goal after Roy Carroll was unable to hold Roman Eremenko's stoppage-time shot.