Friday 23 March 2018

euro 2012 qualifying Round-up

Steven Davis marked his 50th cap with a goal against Estonia but Northern Ireland's slim hopes of making a Euro 2012 play-off from Group B ended after a 2-1 defeat.

Needing to win against the Estonians and again in Italy on Tuesday, as well as requiring other results to fall their way, they opened the scoring against a side who had stunned them 4-1 in Tallinn last month.

Davis, leading the side in Aaron Hughes' injury absence, scored his fourth international goal from close range in the 22nd minute after Kyle Lafferty's powerful run and cross was spilled by goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko.

Unfortunately, they couldn't hold on and substitute Konstantin Vassiljev converted a 77th-minute penalty after he was felled by Craig Cathcart inside the area before adding a controversial winner with six minutes to play.

A linesman incorrectly flagged for offside against the Estonians but referee Manuel Grafe waved play on and Estonia took full advantage of the home side's confusion.

Northern Ireland had also needed Italy to win in Belgrade to keep the unlikely possibility of grabbing second place in the group alive.

Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio looked to have done just that when he got the first goal after only two minutes but Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic equalised in the 26th minute.

The tie ended 1-1, meaning Serbia must win in Slovenia to regain second place from Estonia.

Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale gave Wales a 2-0 win over 10-man Switzerland at the Liberty Stadium.

Chris Gunter was brought down by Timm Klose in the box on the hour and the Arsenal youngster dispatched the spot-kick for his fifth goal in nine internationals.

Reto Ziegler had earlier seen red for a studs-up tackle on Gunter and Bale broke clear to double the advantage.

Austria recorded a 4-1 win on their travels against 10-man Azerbaijan in Group A. Andreas Ivanschitz, Marc Janko (2) and Zlatko Junuzovic did the damage for the Austrians, while the home team's sole reply came courtesy of Vugar Nadirov.

Germany made it nine wins from nine in the same group as they won 3-1 in Turkey thanks to goals from Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and a penalty for Bastian Schweinsteiger -- Hakan Balta got one back for Turkey.

Belgium beat Kazakhstan 4-1 to leapfrog Turkey into second place but face a daunting trip to Germany in their final game while Turkey host Azerbaijan.

World and European champions Spain did Scotland a huge favour ahead of their visit to Liechtenstein today, as they beat the Czech Republic 2-0 in Prague. Juan Mata opened the scoring in just the sixth minute before David Silva set up Xabi Alonso to double the lead midway through the first half.

Scotland must now beat the Group I minnows before Tuesday's trip to Alicante, where they have to match the Czechs' result in Lithuania to earn a place in the play-offs.

Holland maintained their 100pc qualifying record in Group E with a 1-0 victory over Moldova, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar getting the only goal of the game just before half-time.

Earlier, Sweden clinched the play-off spot by holding out for a 2-1 win in Finland. Goals from Sebastian Larsson and Martin Olsson at the start of each half proved enough, despite a determined fightback from the hosts, sparked by Joona Toivio's 73rd-minute strike.

The Group F decider between Greece and Croatia in Piraeus was temporarily suspended less than three minutes after kick-off when over 100 masked individuals entered a stand and attacked the Croatia supporters.

The game resumed after a six-minute interruption, but the Croat supporters, said to number about 700, continued ripping seats and throwing them at riot police, who responded with pepper spray.

Celtic's Georgios Samaras opened the scoring in the 71st minute before Theofanis Gekas added a second, as a 2-0 win saw Greece take over from their opponents as group leaders ahead of the final round of matches.

Irish Independent

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