Northern Ireland faced off against the Ukraine in Euro 2016 action on Thursday, with Gareth McAuley proving the side’s key player in the 2-0 victory.
Northern Ireland settled into the game far better than in their previous game against Poland, as they repelled initial Ukrainian pressure and began to assert themselves.
According to SASoccermag’s Opta-powered match centre, Ukraine enjoyed 64 percent of the possession in the first half, but failed to create any clear-cut chances. Meanwhile, the Irish steadily grew in confidence, causing problems particularly with their set pieces.
The key player on the night for Ireland proved to be Gareth McAuley. The defender made 34 touches on the night, while he frustrated the Ukrainians by winning four of his six duels and making seven clearances.
Crucially, McAuley was also on hand to grab a vital goal for the Northern Irish, as the player connected with a header to knock the ball past opposing goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov in the 49th minute.
Niall McGin added a late second as the Irish ran out 2-0 winners, despite managing just 31 percent of the possession over the course of the game. They did, however, manage more shots on target over the course of the game with, with seven compared to Ukraine’s four.