O'Neill takes positives

Northern Ireland boss hails fighting spirit

Michael O'Neill: Taking positives out of Northern Ireland's draw at home to Finland

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Michael O'Neill was keen to take the positives out of Northern Ireland's performance after they were held to a dramatic draw by Finland in a six-goal thriller at Windsor Park.

Shane Ferguson and Martin Paterson opened their international accounts and the returning Kyle Lafferty underlined his importance with his ninth senior strike.

Northern Ireland were 2-0 ahead after a bright start but two goals in as many minutes from Tim Sparv and Teemu Pukki, followed by an unstoppable second-half free-kick from Perparim Hetemaj, left them needing Paterson's 84th-minute intervention from the penalty spot to rescue a draw.

O'Neill told Sky Sports: "We started the game well, but at times we were a bit careless in possession. I have to admit, Finland were better in possession of the ball for long periods of the game.

"But, given the situation from being two goals ahead to going behind, I thought in the last 20 minutes we showed great spirit and got ourselves a deserved equaliser.

"Overall, there were a lot of things to be positive about."

Learning

Striker Lafferty felt the performance was a learning curve for a lot of the players as they prepare to take on Russia in their opening World Cup qualifying game next month.

"We've got a lot of young players in the team and we're still gelling together, but I thought we played some good football in the early stages of the match," he said.

"We have great character and we're not afraid to pass the ball at times. To come from 3-2 down showed great character, but we were also disappointed to concede three goals."