Ronan Curtis rescues a vital late point for Ireland in Kosovo
Portsmouth striker’s goal keeps under-21s in with a shout of qualification for the Euros
Ireland’s Ronan Curtis was the hero in Kosovo after a 1-1 draw in European under-21 Championship qualifying. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Kosovo 1 Ireland 1
Noel King believes his Republic of Ireland side can still automatically qualify for next year’s Under-21 European Championship finals after being held to a draw by Kosovo on Friday night.
In-form striker Ronan Curtis snatched a point against an improving Kosovo side in Mitrovica eight minutes from full-time. The Portsmouth forward – recently recruited from Derry City – controlled a long ball on the left before cutting inside onto his favoured right foot and drilling a shot beyond Florjan Smakiqi.
Florent Hasani had opened the scoring on 65 minutes. The Hungary-based midfielder connected with Larim Kastrati’s left-wing low cross to beat Kieran O’Hara from eight yards.
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 playoff spot or secure a spot in France next year automatically.
“This Kosovo side had already drawn with Germany and beaten Norway, so it was important to get something from the game,” he said.
“Both teams went for the win, which left us exposed to the counterattack, but we finished stronger after equalising and did enough to win the match in the end.”
In a first half of scarce scoring opportunities, Leeds United defender Conor Shaughnessy should have at least hit the target on 16 minutes when the ball broke to him from a corner. The defender was unable to keep his shot down.
O’Hara was left static when Dren Feka’s powerful header smacked off the crossbar at the other end and relieved that Smakiqi angled his shot wide from close range.
Kastrati came alive after the break, twice fizzing shots 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).