Cur­tis strikes late equaliser to keep hopes alive

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SOCCER -

Noel King be­lieves his Repub­lic of Ire­land side can still au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for next year’s fi­nals de­spite last night’s draw.

Ro­nan Cur­tis snatched a point against Kosovo side in Mitro­vica eight min­utes from full-time. The striker con­trolled a long ball on the left be­fore cut­ting in­side and drilling a shot be­yond Flor­jan Smak­iqi.

Flor­jan Smak­iqi had opened the scor­ing on 65 min­utes. The mid­fielder con­nected with Larim Kas­trati’s left-wing low cross to beat Kieran O’Hara from eight yards.

The re­sult means King’s side will likely have to beat Ger­many in one of their du­els over the last three games. While Ire­land re­main in sec­ond place, they will prob­a­bly need at least seven points from their last three games to clinch a play-off spot or se­cure a spot in France next year au­to­mat­i­cally.

In a first half Leeds United de­fender Conor Shaugh­nessy should have hit the tar­get on 16 min­utes when the ball broke to him from a corner. The de­fender was un­able to keep his shot down. O’Hara was left static when Dren Feka’s header smacked off the cross­bar at the other end and re­lieved that Smak­iqi an­gled his shot wide. Kas­trati came alive af­ter the break, twice fizzing shots past O’Hara’s near post be­fore squar­ing for the opener.

Af­ter Cur­tis has can­celled out the opener, Harry Chars­ley was de­nied a late win­ner from close-range by Smak­iqi.

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