BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania outclassed Northern Ireland 2-0 with defender Paul Papp scoring twice in five minutes in the second half as they moved above their opponents to top Euro 2016 qualifying Group F at the National Arena on Friday.
Romania struggled to convert their dominance into goals in the first half as they wasted a couple of chances with veteran Lucian Sanmartean again pulling the strings in midfield.
But right back Papp lashed an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top corner for his second international goal after the visitors failed to clear a cross from Romania captain Razvan Rat in the 74th minute.
Five minutes later, Papp gave Irish keeper Roy Carroll no chance with a brilliant header following a precise cross from Sanmartean.
Unbeaten Romania top the standings with 10 points from four matches, followed by Northern Ireland, who arrived in Bucharest with a maximum nine points from three games.
Iordanescu, who returned last month for a third spell as Romania coach, stuck to predecessor Victor Piturca’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system, with Bogdan Stancu as a lone striker in the absence of the injured Bogdan Marica and Raul Rusescu.
Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill made three changes from the side that beat Greece 2-0 in Athens last month, with Niall McGinn and Chris Brunt replacing Jamie Ward and Steven Taylor in midfield and Ryan McGivern coming at left back for the injured Shane Ferguson.
Romania’s 25-year-old birthday boy Vlad Chiriches, charged with the task of keeping in-form Kyle Lafferty under wraps, tested Carroll with an amazing overhead kick after Chris Baird failed to properly clear the ball.
The visitors responded with a speedy counter attack and Brunt fired a left-foot shot just wide but they rode their luck when the home side failed to take two excellent chances.
Alexandru Chipciu hit the bar from Cristian Tanase’s left-wing cross before heading straight into Carroll’s arms from the rebound.
Just after the half-hour mark, Sanmarten drove into the box on a brilliant solo run but, with only Carroll to beat, he unselfishly squared the ball to Stancu who fell over, allowing the Irish defence to clear.
Claudiu Keseru, who replaced the ineffective Stancu at halftime, played an excellent ball through to Rat but the home captain failed to beat Carroll in a one-on-one.