21/04/1971 Belfast Cyprus 5-0 George Best (3), Derek Dougan, Jimmy Nicholson
Pat Jennings. Dave Craig, Dave Clements, Martin Harvey, Allan Hunter, Sammy Todd (Peter Watson), Bryan Hamilton, Eric McMordie, Derek Dougan, Jimmy Nicholson, George Best
The final scoreline reflected the dominance of Northern Ireland in this European Championship Qualifier. Things got off to the best possible start after 90 seconds as newly appointed captain Derek Dougan scored a headed goal with the assist coming courtesy of a Sammy Todd cross.
A shot from Jimmy Nicholson was turned round the post by the Cypriot goalkeeper Herodotus while a Bryan Hamilton attempt flew just past the post. Hamilton subsequently then had a goal disallowed as he had strayed offside. Hamilton continued to influence the game from midfield with a fine through ball for Derek Dougan but his shot landed on the roof of the net. The woodwork was struck shortly after when Dave Clements had chipped the goalkeeper but the ball clipped the crossbar.
After much pressure from the home side the second goal was finally scored in the 44th minute when George Best picked the ball up just outside the penalty area. Best hit a powerful shot off the post and into the net without any movement from the Cypriot goalkeeper who must have assumed that the ball was going wide.
The third goal came just after the interval when Best scored his second on 47 minutes. David Craig hit a long pass up to Derek Dougan on the left hand side, which subsequently went onto Best who cut round the full-back and slotted the ball into the far corner of the goal.
Northern Ireland having recently been on a poor scoring run until the previous match against the same opposition where they defeated Cyprus 3-0 were pushing for more goals. The woodwork was hit once more as George Best hit a shot against the crossbar and another shot just wide. However, the crowd did not have to wait long for a further goal and witness the first Northern Ireland player to score a hat-trick in eleven years when George Best scored on 56 minutes direct from a corner kick! Eric McMordie tried to reach the in-swinger but missed and the ball subsequently curled all the way into the net with Allan Hunter and the Cypriot goalkeeper ending up there too!
Northern Ireland now had the upper hand and the hunger for more goals. George Best smacked a shot against the crossbar and then he hit another wide. Northern Ireland’s third goal came after 56 minutes and was scored by Best direct from a left-wing corner. Up went Eric McMordie but he missed it and it curled into the net with Allan Hunter and the Cypriot goalkeeper Herodotus ending up in the net as well.
Northern Ireland continued to search for further goals, Derek Dougan went close with a header while a Bryan Hamilton’s goal bound shot was deflected for a corner. George Best already assured of the match ball hit the woodwork again when a shot rebounded off the post.
The fifth goal did arrive however, in the 85th minute of the match. A Jimmy Nicholson shot deflected off Koureas which prevented the Cypriot goalkeeper from reacting in time to save it.
This result had put Northern Ireland to the top of their qualifying group but in the end they would eventually lose out on qualification.
* Trivia –
At 2 minutes, Peter Watson’s international career is likely the shortest of any Northern Ireland player.