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Northern Ireland 1 New Zealand 0: Boyce opens international account in routine win

Liam Boyce netted his first international goal as Northern Ireland geared up for a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan with a comfortable 1-0 friendly victory over New Zealand at Windsor Park.

Ross County striker Boyce was the leading scorer in the 2016-17 Scottish Premiership season with 23 goals and he continued that fine form in Belfast on Friday.

The 26-year-old opened his international account in his ninth appearance with a clever sixth-minute finish, staking his claim for greater involvement when Michael O'Neill's side continue their bid for a place at Russia 2018 in Baku next Saturday.

Boyce made way for Kyle Lafferty at half-time, but the latter was unable to extend Northern Ireland's advantage in a largely uneventful second half.

The solitary strike proved enough for victory, though, with New Zealand failing to trouble Michael McGovern and 84th-minute replacement Roy Carroll in the opposition goal as prolific Leeds United striker Chris Wood was starved of service.

Substitute Kosta Barbarouses struck the post inside the last 20 minutes, meaning New Zealand will be eager for improvement against Belarus next Sunday to send them into Confederations Cup clashes against Russia, Mexico and Portugal on a high.

Northern Ireland took an early lead when a swift move through the middle ended with Boyce cutting inside Tom Doyle and beating New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic at his near post.

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Another neat piece of interplay saw Chris Brunt find Josh Magennis, but he was unable to add a goal to his assist for the opener when Marinovic turned his shot away from the bottom-left corner.

The urgency in Northern Ireland's play soon subsided and Tommy Smith remonstrated with the officials when he was left bleeding from the lip after being caught by a stray arm from Conor McLaughlin, who went unpunished.

McLaughlin almost rubbed salt into the wound with a fine finish from the edge of the box, but Boyce's foul on Andrew Durante in the build-up stopped it from counting.

Marinovic produced a great save with his right leg on the stroke of half-time, stopping Magennis from doubling Northern Ireland's advantage from an acute angle.

Lafferty, Steven Davis and Shane Ferguson came on for the hosts at the start of the second half and New Zealand quickly threatened an equaliser. Wood teed up Doyle, who arrowed a fierce 20-yard drive across goal and wide.

Magennis continued to prove dangerous and his excellent delivery to the penalty spot was volleyed off target by a stretching Lafferty in the 51st minute.

New Zealand came agonisingly close to an equaliser when Barbarouses - a 63rd-minute replacement for Kip Colvey - raced in behind only to see his attempt to curl into the bottom-right corner crash back off the upright.

Despite their late improvement, the visitors were unable to salvage a result and fell to just their second defeat in 17 matches.