EURO 2016

Rating Northern Ireland's heroes after their famous win

EURO 2016By Sunday World
McAuely scored an iconic opening goal for Northern Ireland
McAuely scored an iconic opening goal for Northern Ireland

Gareth McAuley spoke of the satisfaction Northern Ireland had taken from overcoming widespread doubts to defeat Ukraine 2-0 in Lyon and secure their first ever win at a European Championships.

McAuley's powerful 49th-minute header and Niall McGinn's close-range finish deep into stoppage time secured an unexpected victory against higher-profile opposition.

It also revived Northern Ireland's hopes of progressing to the competition's knockout stages from the competitive Group C, taking them level on three points with Germany and Poland who play later on Thursday evening.

"It's massive," McAuley, who at 36 became the second oldest ever goalscorer at a European Championships, told ITV.

"Nobody has given us a chance. Lots of people said we wouldn't get a point. We weren't at it against Poland - to our standards, the intensity we wanted to play at - but tonight was a lot better. We're delighted for every one of these people that's come to support us.

"It's special (to score), it'll sink in probably over the next few days. The team performance was pleasing, the reaction from getting beaten against Poland...We've got a tough game to look forward to now, and we've got something to play for: that's what we wanted.

"We had a point to prove to ourselves. These (fans) are with us no matter what. We thought we'd let ourselves down (against Poland), just with the intensity we played at.

"But we've put it right. We've got a big game to look forward to in Paris (against Germany).

"It's pleasing, it's good, (there's a) tough game ahead but we're delighted.

"The lads will take confidence from it, because we'd been written off."

MICHAEL MCGOVERN: Would have expected a late assault from Ukraine but his defence ensured it was a quiet afternoon. 7

AARON HUGHES: Played his part in a superb rearguard display. 7

CRAIG CATHCART: Alive to the dangers Ukraine posed and almost opened the scoring in the first half. 7

GARETH MCAULEY: Veteran defender headed home Northern Ireland's first tournament goal in 30 years and was a rock at the back. 8

JONNY EVANS: Marshalled the defence brilliantly, using his big-game experience to lead his side to victory. 8

JAMIE WARD: Was a threat down the right as Northern Ireland created many more chances than in their opening defeat by Poland. 7

CORRY EVANS: Had done his job by the time he was substituted in injury time to run the clock down. 7

STEVEN DAVIS: Showed good energy in a tireless performance. 7

OLIVER NORWOOD: Delivered a brilliant ball in from a deep free-kick and McAuley did the rest. 7

STUART DALLAS: Gave Northern Ireland more of a threat going forward and his low shot forced Andriy Pyatov to push the ball into Niall McGinn's path for the second goal. 7

CONOR WASHINGTON: Preferred to Kyle Lafferty and produced a lively performance. 7