All three of the Home Nations' sides in action came away with points last night in their Euro 2016 qualifiers, as both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland drew away and Northern Ireland kept their fine start going with success in Greece. Going into the matches, all three would have been hoping rather than expecting points from their games, but can now look forward with real optimism to the rest of their qualifying campaigns. Group D which contains both Scotland and the Republic (and face each other next month) is shaping up into quite a contest, with the potential for qualification places going right down to the last matches as the teams take points off each other.

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Germany 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland

After the shock of losing away in Poland in their last match, the World Champions would have expected to bounce back with a victory against the Republic on home soil, but Martin O'Neill is gradually building a resolute and organised team that fears no one. They held the Germans at arms' length for much of the match, limiting them to mainly long range efforts during a dour first half.

Germany thought they had finally snatched the win when Toni Kroos scored in the 71st minute from a long range shot that went in off the post. The Irish were not beaten though and in a dramatic finale John O'Shea equalised only seconds from the end, to celebrate his 100th cap for his country in fine style.

The draw keeps the Irish unbeaten in the group and joint top with the Poles on seven points apiece.

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Poland 2 - 2 Scotland

In contrast to the Germans' despondency after defeat in Poland, the Poles came into the second act of their Warsaw double header full of confidence, as they took on Gordon Strachan's rejuvenated Scotland side, who had also won their last match against Georgia. The vibrant crowd willed on their heroes to repeat the performance, but were matched for the most part by a disciplined display from the much improved Scots. The game itself was an enjoyable, end to end affair with chances aplenty for both nations.

Poland went ahead in the 11th minute when the Scots defence failed to clear the ball beyond the edge of their own area, allowing Krzysztof Maczynski to tuck his shot in off a post. The lead lasted only seven minutes as Ikechi Anya neatly brought down a crossfield pass, picked out team mate Shaun Maloney in the area and he calmly side footed home under the body of Wojciech Szczesny.

Scotland went ahead after the break on 57 minutes when Everton striker Steven Naismith slid in to slot home a deep free-kick at the back post.

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Poland rallied and the home crowd finally had some reward for their vociferous support on 76 minutes, when crisp interplay down their left provided Arkadiusz Milik with the opportunity to equalise, and his unerring drive found the net. It was a deserved equaliser for the pressure they had been generating and spurred them on to push for the winner, as moments later the usually lethal Robert Lewandowski almost beat the keeper after a sharp turn in the box. With seven minutes to go, the Scots rode their luck as first Kamil Grosicki hit the post and then the follow up was blazed well wide.

The Scots' defence was slightly ragged by the later stages, but they were still looking forward when possible and clung on to a deserved point for their great endeavour over the 90 plus minutes. They will feel the happier of the two sides with the draw, although will have a tinge of regret that they couldn't hold on for all three points.

Greece 0 - 2 Northern Ireland



Northern Ireland ran out surprisingly comfortable winners against Group F favourites, Greece by two goals to nil and in doing so have now won three consecutive internationals, a feat that they last achieved in April 2009. Their goalscoring heroes on the night were Jamie Ward with a deflected shot in the 9th minute, which was added to by Norwich City's Kyle Lafferty six minutes into the second period, his third goal in as many games. He had also hit the underside of the bar just before the break.

They now top the group with a maximum of nine points, with Romania two points behind, the side they visit next month. If the Irish can come through that match unscathed then they will start to believe that automatic qualification is a real possibility. #Football #Euro2016