Ireland U21s fight back to earn draw in Kosovo as Ronan Curtis scores late equaliser to keep qualification hopes alive
Kosovo U21 1 Ireland U21 1
Ronan Curtis rescued a point for Ireland in their Under-21 Euro qualification tie against an improving Kosovo side in Mitrovica.
Florjan Smakiqi opened the scoring on 65 minutes, the Hungary-based midfielder connecting with Larim Kastrati’s left-wing low cross to beat Kieran O’Hara from eight yards, before Curtis continued his recent purple patch.
Eight minutes from time and with Ireland needing a goal to remain in contention for a play-off, the Portsmouth striker controlled a long ball on the left before cutting inside onto his favoured right foot and drilling a shot beyond Florjan Smakiqi.
The result means Noel King’s Boys in Green will likely have to beat Germany in one of their duels over the last three games. The European champions first visit Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday before the sides meet again in October, four days after Ireland travel to face Israel.
While Ireland remain in second place, they will probably need to accumulate 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 scrappy first half, Conor Shaughnessy should have done better on 16 minutes when the ball broke to him from a corner. The defender couldn’t keep his shot down.
O’Hara was relieved to see Dren Feka’s powerful header rebound off the crossbar at the other end and also when Smakiqi sliced wide from close range.
Kastrati came alive after the break, twice screwing his shot 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 a one-handed save by Smakiqi.
KOSOVO: F Smakiqi; A Kabashi, A Ismajli, B Kolgeci; L Mema, F Hasani (M Daku 85), R Broja, K Krasniqi (M Korenica 61), D Feka; V Sulejmani (K Shabani 73), L Kastrati.
IRELAND: K O'Hara (Macclesfield Town); Danny Kane (AFC Fylde), R Sweeney (Mansfield United), Connor Shaughnessy (Leeds United), C Whelan (Crewe Alexandra); J Cullen (Charlton Athletic), Liam Kinsella (Walsall); H Charsley (Everton), R Manning (Rotherham United), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth); Reece Grego-Cox (Crawley Town).
Subs: J Mulraney (Hearts) for Kane, Ronan Hale (Derry City) for Manning (both 78).
Referee: Petr Ardeleanu (CZE).