Late Walters goal saves Ireland from Austria loss

A late Jonathan Walters goal gave Ireland a 1-1 draw at home to Austria, a result Martin O’Neill is likely to consider as two-points dropped in World Cup qualification.

Group D

O’Neill’s side were well short of their best, particularly in the first half when the visitors took the lead just after the half-hour mark with a goal from Martin Hinteregger. And it took until the 85th minute for Ireland to draw level, when Walters hit a right-foot volley past Heinz Lindner. And the hosts thought they had won it late on, only for Shane Duffy’s effort to be disallowed.

This result gave Wales a great opportunity to make progress in their bid to qualify for the Finals next summer, and an Aaron Ramsey penalty gave them a first-half lead against group leaders Serbia. But Aleksandar Mitrovic hit back in the second half to level the score, with 17 minutes left on the clock. In the other game, another draw – Georgia fighting back from 2-0 down in Moldova.

So with four matches left to play Serbia top the group on 12 points, ahead of Ireland on goal difference only. Wales remain in third place on eight points, the same number as Austria. O’Neill’s side will be looking at the visit of the Serbians in September as the crucial match in their quest to reach Russia, although they travel to Wales for their final match the following month.

Group G

The battle for top spot between Italy and Spain continues in Group G. The latter remain in pole position after beating Macedonia 2-1 in Skopje, delivered thanks to first half goals from David Silva and Diego Costa. The Italians kept up the pressure with a 5-0 win over Lichtenstein, with goals from Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Belotti, Eder, Federico Bernardeschi and Manolo Gabbiadini.

Both sides are tied at the top of the group on 16 points, but Spain have the goal difference advantage by four. It is likely the outcome of the group will be determined when they come face-to-face in Madrid in September, although they will both still have three matches to play afterwards.

In the other match in the group on Sunday, Albania beat Israel 3-0 and, in doing so, leapfrogged their opponents to move into third place.

Group I

A last minute Horour Magnusson goal gave Iceland a crucial 1-0 win over Croatia in Reykjavik, meaning the Euro 2016 surprise package now lead Group I over their Sunday evening opponents. Both sides are on 13 points, just two ahead of both Turkey and Ukraine who enjoyed victories on the road; the latter 2-1 in Finland, and the Turks 4-1 against group whipping boys Kosovo.

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