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Ireland back on finals trail

Republic of Ireland, runners-up in 2010, topped Group 2 with a last-day 1-1 draw against Italy that left them a point ahead of Romania in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Action from the 1-1 draw with Italy that took Ireland through
Action from the 1-1 draw with Italy that took Ireland through ©Tome Velkov

The Republic of Ireland topped UEFA European Women's Championship first qualifying round Group 2 with a 1-1 draw that eliminated Italy.

Going into the last day, Ireland held a three-point lead over both Romania and Italy. Romania beat hosts the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 6-1 but it was in vain as Ireland, eliminated at this stage last season having been 2010 runners-up, took a 54th-minute lead through Eleonora Piacezzi's own goal and Arianna Montecuicco's equaliser could not save Italy's campaign.

Italy were at the summit after matchday one, beating FYROM 6-0 with a Raffaella Barbieri hat-trick while Ireland edged to a 3-2 victory against Romania. It was one apiece when Katie McCabe converted a penalty with two minutes to go and substitute added another before Alexandra Elena Nica reduced arrears deep in added time.

Ireland then inflicted a second 6-0 defeat on FYROM courtesy of three Clare Shine goals. That left them three points clear as Romania defeated Italy 3-2 despite having twice lost the lead, Loredana Cosma deciding the game two minutes from the end.

Romania, whose win against FYROM was inspired by four Alexandra Lunca goals, three in the first 20 minutes to take her tournament tally to six, may yet join Ireland in the 15 November second qualifying round draw. They will have to finish as one of the four runners-up with the best record against the teams first and third in their sections; with seven of ten groups complete they lie third but may be overtaken by one of Finland or England tomorrow.