A historic win in Windsor Park after a senior start for Louise McDaniel, a return from injury for Caragh Hamilton, and penalty redemption for Rachel Furness.
Northern Ireland made it eight consecutive wins in a row after beating Latvia 4-0 in the Women’s World Cup qualification on Tuesday evening.
The latest win makes it back to back 4-0 wins for the home side. They also defeated Luxembourg on Friday night in Larne.
Northern Ireland had a strong start to the game. Inside the first five minutes of the game, Lauren Wade cut inside from the wing and curled her strike just wide of the target from outside the box.
Following an otherwise uneventful first 15 minutes, Olga Sevcova forced Jackie Burns into a save. The Northern Ireland keeper dealt with Sevcova’s shot with her legs as she raced off her goal-line.
Wade was causing Latvia all sorts of problems with her movement. She was inches away from breaking the nil-nil deadlock as she had a go from long range. The ball sailed just wide of the right-hand post.
Latvia forced the home side to shoot from distance until Kirsty McGuinness delivered a perfect cross and Sarah McFadden’s header rattled the crossbar. Minutes later, Rachel Furness came close as well. She took the ball down on her chest and got a strike away on goal, but it sailed off target.
As the game approached half-time, the Latvian side called the Northern Ireland keeper into action once more. Viktorija Zaičikova tried her luck from distance but Burns reacted well and held onto the ball before a Latvian attacker could turn home the rebound.
Northern Ireland had the final chance of the first half when Furness played a superb through ball for Wade. Wade was one-on-one with the keeper, but dragged her effort across the face of goal.
Strong start to the second half
The home side started the second strongly with McGuinness playing an excellent ball into the box. Receiving the cross, Callaghan failed to make a clean connection with the ball and it dropped wide of the target.
The first goal of the game came three minutes into the second half. Louise McDaniel, who made her first senior start on the night, hit the back of the net. The strike gave Northern Ireland’s senior women’s their first ever goal at Windsor Park.
Wade came close to a goal once again, forcing a low save from Enija Vaivode.
Then Kenny Shiels made his first change – Rebecca McKenna, who made a move to Lewes from Linfield over the summer, replaced Beattie.
Callaghan played McGuinness a perfectly weighted through ball and McGuinness planted her effort across goal. On her 50th international cap, McGuinness gave the home side their second goal of the game
In what was almost a third goal, McDaniel’s strike found the back of the net. Her celebrations didn’t last long as she was denied a second by the offside flag.
With 68 minutes on the clock, Furness came close to scoring again when she met another cross into the box. She sent her header over the bar from close range.
For Shiels’ second substitution, Wade came off as Caragh Hamilton made her first appearance on the international stage after almost a year out due to an ACL injury.
In the 78th minute, Callaghan’s goal put Northern Ireland’s win beyond doubt. Demi Vance’s swung in a cross for Callaghan who touched her effort beyond the keeper to make it 3-0.
Two minutes later the home side won a penalty after a handball and Furness stepped up to the spot. Redeeming herself after a missed penalty against Luxembourg, she swept the ball home with confidence.
With less than ten minutes to go, Shiels made three further changes. Danielle Maxwell, Ciara Watling and Kelsie Burrows came on for Furness, McGuinness and Laura Rafferty.
Callaghan forced another good save from Vaivode in injury time but Northern Ireland had already sealed all three points. The win makes it two wins from two so Northern Ireland are off to the perfect start on their quest to reach their first ever Women’s World Cup.
How the teams lined up
Northern Ireland: Burns, Rafferty (Burrows 83′), McFadden, Vance, McDaniel, McCarron, Furness (Waitling 83′), Callaghan, Wade (Milligan 70′), Beattie (McKenna 60′), K McGuiness (Maxwell 83′).
Unused Subs: Flaherty, Harvey-Clifford, Nelson, Holloway, C McGuinness, Caldwell, Wilson.
Latvia: Vaivode, Voitane (Brahmane 90′), Gergeleziu, Rocane, Tumane (Grananca 90′), Miksone, Lubina (Girzda 90′), Zaicikova, Fedotova (Baliceva 52′), Sevcova, Senberga (Valaka 63′).
Unused Subs: Sklemenova, Sinutkina, Lodzina, Vitmore, Sondore, Freidenfelde, Buklovska.