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O'Neill happy to see goals go in
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was relieved to see his side break their scoring duck under his management in an entertaining 3-3 draw against Finland.
While O'Neill was far from elated at conceding three times, particularly a momentum-shifting second goal from a Chris Brunt back-pass, there was a clear delight at getting off the mark before the World Cup qualifying campaign gets under way in Russia next month.
"It's always nice to score, it's important for me and the team to score goals," said O'Neill. "Obviously the first two games we didn't manage to score so it was nice to get three tonight...albeit without managing to win the game."
His two previous matches in charge had ended in 3-0 and 6-0 defeats against Norway and Holland, but maiden international goals from Shane Ferguson and Martin Paterson, as well as a ninth senior strike from Kyle Lafferty, ensured the Windsor Park faithful had something to cheer on this occasion.
O'Neill went on: "I'm pleased for Martin. For any striker, when they step up to international level it's important to get off the mark. And I'm pleased for Shane. He's a player with a big future, not just at club level but also with us at international level.
"Since I came in he's probably been one of the brightest aspects of it and it was great to see him get off the mark with a great finish."
O'Neill saw his side go two up inside 19 minutes before Finland hit back with two goals in as many minutes from Tim Sparv and Teemu Pukki. A perfectly struck free-kick from Perperam Hetemaj then looked to have given Finland the win before Paterson earned and converted an 84th-minute penalty.
Reflecting on the up-and-down nature of the contest, O'Neill added: "There's a lot in the game that was positive and to be pleased at but there were aspects that were disappointing as well. I thought the first 20 minutes we were excellent, scored two very good goals but we lost a goal and we lost a wee bit of belief."
Finland coach Mixu Paatelainen - who once played with O'Neill and later employed him as his assistant at Cowdenbeath - felt aggrieved not to be leaving Belfast with a victory.
"I am very, very disappointed not to win that match," he said. "I thought we played good football, passed the ball well and controlled the game thoroughly from start to finish. But the way we defended on three occasions was poor with a capital 'P'. We just needed to be a bit sharper mentally."
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