Malta 0-3 North Ireland: Baraclough enjoyed his victory

Ian Baraclough says the 3-0 friendly win over Malta “ticked many boxes” as he enjoyed his first 90-minute victory as Northern Ireland’s manager in the 12th round.

Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte, and Ali McCann were identified in Austria.

“I’m extremely happy to score three goals in the game, and obviously by creating chances. And finally getting their rewards,” said Baraclough.

“And also to keep the sheet clean, it was really a lot of fun.”

Jonathan misused the defense to score the first goal before Josh Magennis saw his fine saved by Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello in the first half.

Northern Ireland advanced to the second half with two goals in three minutes.

Whyte fired back home before McCann entered peacefully.

The showing of the second half will boost confidence ahead of Thursday’s friendly match, which will be played in private, against Ukraine in Dnipro.

“And the way we had started both the halves is something we’ve always talked about. We wanted to start immediately. And put the opposition team on the back foot, and we did that,” added Baraclough.

“The team as a whole have now ticked a lot of boxes. When we look, I think we played better in other games. And we didn’t get rewards, so I’m glad we got the rewards. And we can enjoy watching a lot of that work.”

Baraclough breaks ‘duck’ in Klagenfurt

The 90-minute victory finally came to the attention of the Northern Ireland captain. But it was unpleasant to be watched in the first half despite the first goal.

Ferdinando Apap‘s imperfect world gave Jones this opportunity. And the Ranger winger took it with a small shotgun across Bonello before flying.

Bonello came down to save Magennis’s kick in the 21st minute, given a foul charge by Kurt Shaw in Whyte. And the bowler summed up the opening 45 minutes in Northern Ireland.

Malta entered the match, placing places below their rivals in the world rankings. But they equalized in the first half with Joseph Mbong and Luke Montebello both approaches.

There was zip and a different goal from Northern Ireland in a fresh start. And Whyte hit Stuart Dallas’s pass to make it 2-0 after 53 minutes.

Baraclough breaks 'duck' in Klagenfurt (Source: BBC)
Baraclough breaks ‘duck’ in Klagenfurt (Source: BBC)

The third number quickly followed it as McCann was taken over by Paddy McNair and presented a beauty finish before Bonello put the game across the Maltese side.

Who caught the eye?

Most of the game was played in normal end-of-season mode, and there were no strikers in all 90 minutes.

Jones and McCann will be enhanced by scoring their first overseas goals, and both are taken on aplomb.

Dallas is looking to win as Northern Ireland captain in the absence of Steven Davis. It is an essential point for a man in Leeds.

McNair scored McCann’s third goal, and the Middlesbrough man became an offensive asset from the center of the pitch without Davis pulling strings.

And there was Northern Ireland’s first start for young Liverpool youngster Conor Bradley. After his presentation at the Worthersee Stadion at the last minute.

Chelsea defender Sam McClelland has been one of the most undefeated players on the team. 

The defender could make his first appearance in a friendly match on Thursday against Ukraine tied at Euro 2020.

Daniel Ballard missed the match as he celebrated, helping his Blackpool team win the League One final on Sunday.

The defender will be available for the Ukrainian game, along with Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty.

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