Romania had to bide their time against Northern Ireland, but Paul Papp and Răzvan Raț never doubted the goals would come – even if it was a surprise Papp scored them.
Article top media content
•Romania end Northern Ireland's perfect start to qualifying to go top of Group F
• Anghel Iordănescu admits he never thought Paul Papp would score twice
• Both coaches praise 34-year-old Lucian Sânmărtean
• Gareth McAuley says the group remains wide open after Greece's shock loss
• Next games: Romania v Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland v Finland (29 March)
Paul Papp, Romania defender
We won first of all because of the balance within the team and the way we approached the match throughout the 90 minutes. We attacked and pressed all the time and I never doubted we would score. Finally we managed a couple and I am happy. The fact that I scored two goals is reward for my overall work and was down to the team-mates who put me in those positions.
I still believe that it is a hard group, despite the fact that we made an important step towards qualification. But if we do not play well and if we do not win our next matches then it will be very tough for us; the victory over Northern Ireland will mean nothing.
Răzvan Raț, Romania captain
We controlled the game. Northern Ireland did not have many opportunities, only one in the first half, and it was only a matter of time for us to score. We had a lot of chances in the first half – I had one myself in the second and it was a pity I did not score.
But the most important thing is that we scored afterwards and won the three points. We are now top of the group, we have ten points, a very good lift, and we will go onto the next few matches confident we can finish first in our group. Our destiny is in our own hands and we have a big chance of going to the EURO. We must not to lose this opportunity.
Gareth McAuley, Northern Ireland defender
We were beaten by what we think is the best side in the group. We rode our luck in the first half. We tried to make slight changes in what we were trying to do in the second half but trying to hold out and play on the counterattack, we were always susceptible to conceding and unfortunately we did that twice.
We were a little off our game. We didn't use the ball particularly well when we had it until we were 2-0 down. Only then did we start to play a little bit better, we started to play more like ourselves so we are disappointed with that. We felt when we had possession and we were on the break we didn't use ball effectively.
It's difficult to predict now [the outcome of the group]. Romania taking points off us tonight, we would have like to come away with something which would have put us in a great position. Greece losing to the Faroes – nobody would have expected that to happen – leaves the group wide open. We're happy with our efforts in the first four games of the campaign.
Anghel Iordănescu, Romania coach
I congratulate my players for their energy, determination, faith and patience. Lucian Sânmărtean delighted us with his skill levels. He is a top class player. I am sorry he is 34 and not 24 but I am sure he can still play for a while yet at the same level.
I am glad for Paul Papp, too. I asked him to play more offensively than usual but I did not expect him to score. He did so twice and helped us to win this game. Northern Ireland still surprised me. They are a well-organised team who can produce more surprises and – why not – qualify.
Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland coach
I am proud of my team's effort. We hoped for a draw and were 15 minutes from the big result that we dreamed of. Romania are a very strong team, we knew it would be the most difficult game of the group so I said to my players not to be too disappointed.
The hard part of this qualification just passed. We have four home games to play and good chances of finishing the group in the top three. Sânmărtean is a great football player. He can dribble and pass with such ease. He played fantastic tonight and he is 34 years old. I don't know where you hid him until now.