NI Women strike nine with Furness breaking Healy's international record
Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 Uefa qualifier Group D: Northern Ireland 9-0 North Macedonia
Following up a hammering against the same team several days later can be tricky but Northern Ireland Women impressed again in taking their tally against North Macedonia to 20.
They passed their 11-plus examination in style with nine more goals, including a Kirsty McGuinness hat-trick, and doubles from both Rebecca Holloway and Rachel Furness, with the latter breaking the international scoring record of David Healy, moving onto 38 goals.
Yet arguably the player of the match was centre-forward Simone Magill, even though she only scored one, having netted four in the reverse fixture.
The Everton player might not welcome the comparison, but she operated as a centre-forward in the mould of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, dropping into space to link play, picking out probing passes to team-mates bearing down on goal. In all the 27-year-old provided four assists and a pre-assist as well as her superbly-taking goal - and could have had several more.
The ninth and last goal came in added time from substitute Kerry Anne Beattie, for a third assist from left-footed right-winger Lauren Wade.
NI boss Kenny Shiels stuck by the old adage that ‘You don’t change a team that’s won 11-0’ and that policy paid off as his team moved up into second spot behind England and boosted their goal difference to 24, although rivals Austria are away to Luxembourg tonight.
The visitors, perhaps unsurprisingly, made three changes from that thrashing, two of them in defence, with skipper Katerina Mileska dropping back into the department, joined by Teodora Jankovska as the new right-back.
North Macedonia also brought in Elena Petrovska and Hava Mustafa further forward - but not that much further forward, as they packed their box in an attempt to reduce scoring opportunities.
NI still began brightly and after Magill had a ‘goal’ ruled out for an offside which was flagged early they opened their account in the 11th minute - although they’d bagged their third by that stage in Skopje. Furness found McGuinness in space on the left, she steadied herself, and drilled a fine finish in off the far post.
Soon after that home goalkeeper Jacqui Burns was playing passes from within the centre circle, but despite their dominance of territory and possession the girls in green couldn’t double their lead until almost the half-hour mark.
The lively Wade had come close, Furness had a goal-bound header nodded away, and a rare right-foot effort from McGuinness was deflected then sliced wide by the goalkeeper’s foot.
The second goal was worth the wait, though. Holloway strode forward centrally and drilled a long-range beauty past the flailing keeper.
Magill should have made it three but her weak back-post header was pushed onto the post by Magdelena Lekovska and hacked clear by Ana Milchevska.
Yet Magill quickly redeemed that missed opportunity by cleverly teeing up Furness, who guided her shot in from the edge of the box,
Two minutes later McGuinness scored with an audacious effort from out on the left flank. Looking up, she sent the ball soaring inside the far netting for a fabulous goal.
Wade was then denied twice, first by the goalkeeper’s lunging feet, then by an offside flag after great work by Magill for Holloway to cross.
Shiels withdrew two defenders at half-time, Rebecca McKenna and Sarah McFadden replaced by two more attacking players in Ciara Watling and Joely Andrews.
The second half was a shooting-in match, with chances for Wade and McGuinness and Magill heading onto the top of the bar before the score was added to after an hour.
McGuinness scored again, completing her hat-trick with a tap-in, Magill assisting again, freed by a lovely pass from veteran centre half Julie Nelson.
Hat-trick scorer Kirsty McGuinness
Magill then turned pre-provider, releasing Wade, who fired the ball across the box from the right for Holloway to finish high with a sweeping shot from her right boot.
Shiels then switched his wingers, although perhaps initially to allow McGuinness a shorter work to the touchline when she was replaced by Kerry Anne Beattie.
Magill finally got the goal her performance deserved, drifting past a couple of defenders before whipping in a sparkling low shot to send her side seven up.
The post-match celebratory drinks might just have been stronger than that, though, especially for Furness, who headed in a sweet left-footed cross from Wade to make it eight.
Wade repeated the trick in injury time swinging the ball over from the right wing for Beattie to sweep in and leave Northern Ireland floating on cloud nine.
Northern Ireland: Burns; McKenna (Watling, h-t), McFadden (Andrews, h-t), Nelson, Vance; Wade, Furness, Callaghan (capt.) (McDaniel, 65), Holloway (C McGuinness, 82); Magill, K McGuinness (Beattie, 70).
North Macedonia: Lekovska; Jakovska, Mileska (capt.), Milchevska, Boseska; Petrovska, Shemsovikj (Markovska, h-t); Maksuti, Mustafa (Gjorgjevska, 85), Salihi (Husein, 77); Petrushevska (Velkova, 65).
Referee: Meitar Shemesh (Israel).