Belfast Telegraph

Young guns hit summit after Lavery's late show

Albania 1 Northern Ireland 1

By Liam Blackburn

Shayne Lavery struck a late equaliser as Northern Ireland drew 1-1 in Albania to go top of their European Under-21 Championship qualifying group.

Everton forward Lavery stepped off the substitutes' bench to rescue a point for Ian Baraclough's side after Ylber Ramadani's late goal appeared to have sealed the victory for Albania.

Ramadani broke the deadlock for Albania in the 83rd minute, but the visitors hit back through Lavery, a second-half replacement for Paul Smyth, in the 89th minute.

Northern Ireland, who have won three group matches after beating Estonia home and away, have moved top of Group Two, a point clear of Spain, who play Slovakia on Tuesday.

In the best chance of the first half, Kristal Abazaj latched onto a fantastic ball over the top and cut it back brilliantly to Rubin Hebaj, who launched it from outside the box into the hands of Conor Mitchell.

After the break, Ryan Johnson was called upon to make several important clearances.

Northern Ireland's best chance of the half came from a long throw from David Parkhouse onto the head of Cameron Dummigan, who put it just past the post. With seven minutes remaining, Ramadani drilled a low shot into the corner of the net.

But Lavery hit the equaliser with a volley in the 89th minute.

Albania U21: Selmani, Ceka, Tafa, Toli, Ramadani, Bare (Laci 82), Hebaj (Zeka 46), Cekici (Bytyqi 90), Abazaj, Doka, Ndoj. Subs not used: Kastrati, Mustafa, Krymi, Qollaku.

Goals: Ramadani 83.

N Ireland U21: Mitchell, Dummigan, Liam Donnelly, Johnson, Smyth (Lavery 75), Gorman, Thompson (McGonigle 86), Sykes, Josh Doherty (Ben Doherty 67), McDonagh, Parkhouse. Subs not used: Hazard, McDermott, Paul, McClean.

Goals: Lavery 89.

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