International Friendlies
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland1LatviaLatvia0

Northern Ireland 1-0 Latvia

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Jamie Ward and Aleksejs Visnakous battle for possession at Windsor Park
Jamie Ward and Aleksejs Visnakous battle for possession at Windsor Park

Steven Davis scored the decisive goal 10 minutes after half-time as Northern Ireland ended a run of 23 friendly games without a win by beating Latvia.

Seventeen of those matches were lost in a run stretching back to March 2008.

The midfielder latched onto a long ball out of defence by Craig Cathcart and fired home the rebound after an initial header was saved by Andris Vanins.

Michael O'Neill's Euro 2016 finalists dominated throughout and extend their unbeaten run to eight matches.

The victory came in the first of five proposed warm-up fixtures for Northern Ireland ahead of next summer's tournament in France.

The men in green had secured their qualification for the finals by topping their group and ending as top scorers but O'Neill had warned his players to take every opportunity to impress as he contemplates his final 23-man squad.

In contrast, Latvia, managed by former Southampton striker Marian Pahars and ranked 70 places below their opponents in the Fifa world rankings, finished bottom of their group, having failed to win any of their 10 matches.

NI dominate first half

O'Neill's decision to experiment with a 3-5-2 formation paid dividends as his side completely dominated possession in the first half, creating several goal-scoring opportunities.

Highlights of the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia from Windsor Park

Jamie Ward, partnered with Kyle Lafferty up front, saw his swerving right-foot driver parried by Andris Vanins and then his low left-foot strike across goal was again saved by the Latvia goalkeeper.

Home skipper Davis forced Vanins into another fine stop with a clever side-footed effort and then provided the pass which sent Lafferty through on goal, but the Norwich City striker - who has been attracting interest from Leeds United - skewed his shot wide of the target.

Second-half breakthrough

The hosts continued to boss affairs after the interval as Lafferty held off a defender and forced a fine stop from the busy visiting keeper.

The former Rangers striker then narrowly failed to get on the end of an inviting right-wing cross from Conor McLaughlin.

Davis' goal from close range was just reward for Northern Ireland's efforts and Latvia's best chance of an equaliser fell to substitute Artjoms Rudnevs two minutes from time, but his shot flew wide of the post.

Man of the match - Steven Davis

Having scored twice in Northern Ireland's crucial 3-1 triumph over Greece which secured qualification for the Euros last month, skipper Davis produced another authoritative performance in midfield.

The Southampton player pulled the strings in an impressive first-half display and then showed the necessary determination to follow up his initial effort to score his eighth international goal.

Steven Davis scores for N Ireland
Steven Davis prepares to slot home the winning goal for Northern Ireland

What the manager said

NI manager Michael O'Neill: "It was important to keep up the winning momentum and I thought we controlled the game from the first minute to the last.

"We changed the system to play three at the back and I was pleased with a lot of aspects of our play.

"There were some fine individual displays from the likes of Craig Cathcart, Jamie Ward and Stuart Dallas, although I thought our final ball could have been better in the first half and we could have created more chances."

Stats you need to know

  • Northern Ireland are unbeaten in eight matches, the first time they have achieved that feat since 1985-86, when Billy Bingham was in charge
  • Northern Ireland have now won five of their seven meetings with Latvia
  • Latvia are without a win in their last 22 away games, their last victory came on 2 September 2011, against Georgia
  • Prior to beating Latvia, Northern Ireland's last friendly win was a 4-1 home success over Georgia in Belfast in March 2008

What's next?

All eyes are on the draw for the Euro 2016 finals in Paris on 12 December. Michael O'Neill's men will be in Pot Four, the bottom group of seeds.

Two further friendly dates are planned for March 2016 and two more for May, before the finals begin on 10 June.


Northern Ireland

Formation 3-5-2

  • 1McGovernSubstituted forCarrollat 45'minutes
  • 20Cathcart
  • 4McAuley
  • 5Evans
  • 2McLaughlin
  • 8DavisSubstituted forMcCourtat 84'minutes
  • 6Baird
  • 16NorwoodSubstituted forEvansat 45'minutes
  • 14DallasSubstituted forFergusonat 69'minutes
  • 19WardSubstituted forBoyceat 69'minutes
  • 10LaffertySubstituted forMagennisat 54'minutes


  • 3Ferguson
  • 7McGinn
  • 9Mckay
  • 11Boyce
  • 12Carroll
  • 13Evans
  • 15McCourt
  • 18Hodson
  • 21Magennis
  • 23Mannus


Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 1VaninsSubstituted forSteinborsat 74'minutes
  • 6Gabovs
  • 19Jagodinskis
  • 13Gorkss
  • 3Kurakins
  • 16Tarasovs
  • 15RakelsSubstituted forKamessat 85'minutes
  • 5LaizansSubstituted forIkaunieksat 78'minutes
  • 17Zjuzins
  • 7VisnakovsSubstituted forRudnevsat 59'minutes
  • 11VisnakovsSubstituted forSabalaat 71'minutes


  • 2Maksimenko
  • 4Dubra
  • 9Rudnevs
  • 10Sabala
  • 14Ikaunieks
  • 20Kamess
  • 23Steinbors
Mohammed Al-Hoaish

Match Stats

Home TeamNorthern IrelandAway TeamLatvia
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Northern Ireland 1, Latvia 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 1, Latvia 0.

  3. Post update

    Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Kaspars Gorkss (Latvia).

  5. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  6. Post update

    Delay in match Chris Baird (Northern Ireland) because of an injury.

  7. Post update

    Foul by Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland).

  8. Post update

    Janis Ikaunieks (Latvia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Post update

    Corner, Latvia. Conceded by Shane Ferguson.

  10. Post update

    Attempt missed. Artjoms Rudnevs (Latvia) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Vladislavs Gabovs with a cross.

  11. Post update

    Craig Cathcart (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  12. Post update

    Foul by Vladimirs Kamess (Latvia).

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Latvia. Vladimirs Kamess replaces Deniss Rakels.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Northern Ireland. Paddy McCourt replaces Steven Davis.

  15. Post update

    Corry Evans (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Antons Kurakins (Latvia).

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Latvia. Janis Ikaunieks replaces Olegs Laizans.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Liam Boyce (Northern Ireland).

  19. Post update

    Igors Tarasovs (Latvia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  20. Post update

    Corner, Latvia. Conceded by Craig Cathcart.

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Friday 13th November 2015

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