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Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Northern Ireland and Portugal qualify, Group D goes to the wire

Northern Ireland have qualified for the European Championship for the first time thanks to a 3-1 defeat of Greece on Thursday, but it is still all to play for in Group D as Germany, Republic of Ireland and Poland all remain in the hunt going into the final round of fixtures.

Qualification for next year’s competition ends a 30-year major-tournament drought for Northern Ireland and victory never appeared in doubt on Thursday, with Steven Davis at the double.

The Southampton midfielder opened the scoring with 35 minutes played and they doubled their lead early in the second half through Josh Magennis.

Davis’ second just before the hour-mark put the game beyond Greece despite Christos Aravidis’ late consolation, securing Northern Ireland a first appearance at a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

Joining Northern Ireland in clinching qualification were Portugal, who beat Denmark 1-0 thanks to Joao Moutinho’s second-half winner.

Nani had gone closest for the hosts when he hit the crossbar with a header, but Denmark were not let off by Moutinho who produced a fine finish after a display of quick feet on the edge of the area.

Group D looks set to go down to the wire after a dramatic day left third-placed Republic of Ireland just a point behind pacesetters Germany thanks to a 1-0 win.

Shane Long’s effort stunned the world champions to leave Ireland level on 18 points with Poland, who they face on Sunday, after Robert Lewandowski salvaged a last-ditch draw in Scotland.

Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher put Scotland ahead after the red-hot Bayern Munich striker opened the scoring, and Lewandowski prodded home with the last kick of the game to secure a point and eliminate the hosts.

Elsewhere in Group D, Georgia beat rock-bottom Gibraltar 4-0, while in Group F Hungary beat the Faroe Islands 2-1 and Romania 1-1 drew with Finland, leaving Anghel Iordanescu’s men just a point ahead of the Hungarians.

In Group I, Albania lost 2-0 at home to Serbia in a repeat of the match which sparked mass scenes of violence in October 2014 – Aleksandar Kolarov and Adem Ljajic netting in stoppage time.

Thu 8 Oct, 2015
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