Northern Ireland got their first win of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers after a four-goal performance proved to be too much for hosts Lithuania in Vilnius.
The Northerners got three vital points in the hunt for a World Cup Qualifier play-off spot in Group C without some of their most important players.
The match saw three penalties awarded, two of them going in the Green and White Army’s favour and both of those Northern Irish spot-kicks finding the net.
Daniel Ballard opened the scoring for Ian Baraclough’s side, who were searching for their second win in their last three games.
Ballard slotted in after a well-constructed move that led to striker Conor Washington playing a ball across goal for the defender.
Washington was instrumental in the final third for Northern Ireland, adding the second from the penalty spot and being the side’s focal point up top, creating several chances throughout the game.
His strike partner for the evening, Blackpool’s Shane Lavery struggled to take his chances in the first half, missing two gilt-edged chances that could have killed the game before the first 45 minutes had passed.
Lithuania grew into the game in the final ten minutes of the opening half and caused some trouble but could not find an equaliser before the referee halted proceedings.
Northern Irish full-back Michael Smith’s shot early in the second half struck the arm of Lithuanian defender Linas Megelaitis and after a check from referee Stephanie Frappart, a penalty was awarded.
Conor Washington slotted it in the left corner while Lithuanian goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus went the other way.
Northern Ireland finally had a cushion to depend on but it was thrown away minutes later when forward Rolandas Baravykas’ scintillating strike found the back of the Northern Irish net following a corner.
Several minutes later, Frappart awarded a penalty to the home side after a lengthy VAR check and it had appeared that the visitors had let their opponents back into the game.
Former Manchester United player Paddy McNair was given a yellow card for his foul in the box but his blushes were spared as Bailey Peacock-Farrell denied Novikovas.
Jordan Thompson, who combined well with Conor Washington in the attacking third on the night, assisted Shayne Lavery to get clear daylight for their side once again.
It was Lavery’s first goal in international football, which compliments his four goals in seven games for Blackpool this season.
The game began to fade as the result became clearer but Northern Ireland had another goal in them and when captain Steven Davis went down in the box, McNair stepped up to slot home their second penalty of the match to secure a win and an important three points for his side.
Next up for Northern Ireland is a visit to Estonia on Saturday, September 5 before a second World Cup Qualifier of the September internationals against Switzerland takes place on the night of Wednesday, September 8.
MOTM: Conor Washington (Northern Ireland)
Lithuania (4-2-3-1): Setkus; Baravykas, Utkas, Satkus, Slavickus; Verbickas, Megelaitis; Novikovas, Chernykh, Lasickas; Dubickas.
Subs: Gertmonas, Klimavicius, Gaspuitis, Dapkus, Uzela, Jankauskas, Tutyskinas, Kazlauskas, Plukas, Barauskas, Vorobjovas.
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Peacock-Farrell; Smith, Cathcart, Ballard, Lewis; McNair, Davis (C), Thompson, McCann; Lavery, Washington.
Subs: Donnelly, Carson, Flanagan, McCalmont, Lafferty, McGinn, Brown, Jones, Whyte, Charles, Hazard.