Euro qualifiers: Late goals save The Netherlands, Italy

Mar 30, 2015, 08:16 IST | AFP

Paris: The Netherlands and Italy needed late equalisers to earn draws in Euro 2016 qualifying on Saturday, while Gareth Bale inspired Wales to a fine win in Israel that left them top of their group. The Dutch were heading to a first competitive defeat on home soil since October 2000 after Burak Yilmaz put Turkey ahead in Amsterdam, but a 92nd-minute shot by captain Wesley Sneijder deflected into the net off Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to spare Oranje blushes and secure a 1-1 draw.

Wesley Sneijder (right) celebrates after scoring  against Turkey. Pic/AFP 

A defeat might have made Dutch coach Guus Hiddink’s position untenable, and even the draw leaves last year’s World Cup semi-finalists in third place in qualifying Group A, five points behind second-placed Iceland and two points ahead of Turkey.

Only the top two in each group qualify automatically for next year’s finals in France, along with the best third-place finisher. Antonio Conte’s Italy are in a rather more comfortable position than the Netherlands and remain unbeaten in Group H after coming back to draw 2-2 with Bulgaria in Sofia. Yordan Minev’s early own goal gave the Azzurri the lead, but Ivelin Popov and Ilian Micanski both scored for Bulgaria to turn the game on its head. The hosts looked to be heading for a win but debutant Eder came off the bench to save a point for Italy with a fine strike with six minutes left.

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