PARIS: Wout Weghorst scored a second-half winner as the Netherlands beat Ireland 2-1 in Dublin to boost their Euro 2024 qualifying hopes on Sunday, while Poland lost for the third time in qualifying against Albania. Ronald Koeman’s Dutch side had to come back from behind against a spirited Ireland but did enough to stay in the second qualifying spot in Group B behind France.
They are level on points with third-placed Greece who have played an extra match and thrashed Gibraltar 5-0. The Netherlands were stunned inside the first five minutes when Adam Idah scored a penalty awarded for handball against Virgil van Dijk. But Ireland’s momentum was halted in the 19th minute when a mistake from Matt Doherty led to Denzel Dumfries being brought down by home goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Cody Gakpo stepped up to put away the spot-kick and score for the second time in the international break.
Bazunu made a good save to keep out an effort from Donyell Malen before half-time but the Netherlands did take the lead in the 56th minute when Weghorst fired home from Dumfries’ header across goal. Ireland could not summon a late push for an equalizer and remain fourth in the table, six points behind the Dutch with only three matches left. In Tirana, Poland’s bid to qualify for a fifth straight European Championship suffered another blow with a 2-0 loss.
Albania moved to the top of Group E, two points above the Czech Republic and surprise package Moldova, with Poland two points further behind in fourth. Jasir Asani, who plays his club football for Gwangju in South Korea, sent Albania on their way to a massive victory with a magnificent left-footed strike from outside the right-hand side of the area. Mirlind Daku secured the three points by adding a second goal just after the hour mark.
The other game in the group saw Moldova continue their remarkable bid to qualify with a 1-0 win over the Faroe Islands in their first qualifier since shocking Poland in June. Hojbjerg downs Finland Denmark, semi-finalists at Euro 2020, took a big step towards qualification from Group H as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s 86th-minute strike grabbed a 1-0 away win over Finland. The Danes jumped a point above their beaten opponents into the top two, level with Slovenia who saw off San Marino 4-0. “The goal was a relief and this was a very important win for us.
Finland are a good team and they did not make it easy for us,” said Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand. The top four teams in the group are separated by just a single point after Kazakhstan kept their bid to reach a maiden major tournament alive with a 1-0 success against Northern Ireland. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a first-half hat-trick as Serbia beat Lithuania 3-1 to stay on course for next year’s finals in Germany. Serbia sit second in Group G, two points ahead of Montenegro who kept pace thanks to Stevan Jovetic’s 96th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Bulgaria. – AFP
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