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Northern Ireland under-21s secured their first win under manager Tommy Wright the hard way as they played more than half of Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan with 10 men in Baku.
Ciaran McGuckin headed Northern Ireland in front with 19 minutes gone from Sean Stewart’s corner but the Euro 2025 qualifier changed eight minutes before the break.
Aaron Donnelly, part of Northern Ireland’s senior squad back in June, brought down Murad Velijev inside the penalty area to be shown a straight red card, but Northern Ireland were spared further punishment when Dzhamal Dzhafarov sent the resulting penalty wide of the target.
Unsurprisingly Azerbaijan kept Northern Ireland pegged back for long spells after the break but could not find a way past goalkeeper Stephen McMullan.
The Fleetwood stopper did well to keep out a long-range strike from Samir Maharramli with 19 minutes left before Velijev headed over from a corner.
But there was no way through as former St Johnstone boss Wright, appointed in August, could celebrate a first win after his opening two qualifiers in charge ended in 1-0 defeats to Luxembourg and Ukraine last month.
Northern Ireland will continue their qualifying campaign with a home match against Serbia at Mourneview Park on Monday evening.
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