HomeFootballSpain v Northern Ireland: 'The glory nights Northern Ireland stunned superpower Spain

Spain v Northern Ireland: ‘The glory nights Northern Ireland stunned superpower Spain


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Spain had much the better of subsequent meetings between the nations in the 1980s and 1990s but NI, with Sammy McIlroy as manager, earned a creditable hard-fought 0-0 draw in a June 2003 friendly in Belfast, the 10th in a run of 13 games without scoring a goal.

More of that fighting spirit, and no little skill, was on show on a dramatic night bristling with atmosphere on 6 September 2006 as Lawrie Sanchez’s charges saw off a Spanish side loaded with superstars such as Iker Casillas, Carlos Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Raul, David Villa and Fernando Torres.

Xavi volleyed Spain into a 14th-minute lead at Windsor Park, only for the predatory Healy to pounce on a Xabi Alonso mistake to equalise six minutes later.

David Villa restored the lead on 52, but Windsor Park was fairly rocking as NI’s record men’s goalscorer rifled in the leveller from Sammy Clingan’s free-kick after 64 and then deliciously lobbed Casillas for the winner 10 minutes from time, sparking scenes of wild jubilation in the stands.

This almost a year to the day since the then Leeds United striker had scored the decisive goal in a shock 1-0 win over England at the same venue.

It was a first hat-trick by a Northern Ireland player in a home match since George Best netted a treble 35 years previously, marked the first international cap for teenage Manchester United defender Jonny Evans and inflicted a last defeat on Spain before they went on to win Euro 2008.

All this just days after the side had been humiliated 3-0 at home by Iceland.

“I love nights at Windsor Park. Everybody felt we let people down on Saturday but tonight we showed our character more than anything. We’ve bounced back and it’s a massive occasion, we defied all the odds,” Healy, who ended his international career with 36 goals, told the media afterwards.

The only subsequent game between the sides saw Xavi on target in a 1-0 win for the Spanish in November 2007.

Almost 17 years have passed since then, so here’s hoping the wait will be worth it with an entertaining encounter on Saturday night.

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