JONATHAN Walters ended an eventful few days with a priceless goal to hand the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 home win over Georgia and a firmer grip on the chance to reach the Euro 2016 finals.
Walters, who did not join up with the squad until Wednesday as a possible deadline day move away from Stoke failed to materialise, stabbed home his seventh and arguably most important goal for his country after Jeff Hendrick’s stunning run and cross 69 minutes into a tie which proved far too tricky for comfort.
A 1-0 victory at the Aviva Stadium, coupled with Scotland’s 3-2 home defeat by Germany, leaves Martin O’Neill’s men four points clear of the Scots in the race for third spot in Group D and a crack at the play-offs with two games remaining.
Their task remains difficult with Germany heading for Dublin before Ireland fly to Poland next month, but they have at least given themselves a chance – although midfielders Glenn Whelan and James McClean will sit out the first game through suspension.
Poland moved a step closer to qualifying with a crushing 8-1 win over Gibraltar in Warsaw.
The hosts opened the scoring after only eight minutes, Robert Lewandowski providing the cross for team-mate Kamil Grosicki to head home.
Poland doubled their lead after 15 minutes with a quality finish by Grosicki.
It then became the Lewandowski show as the Bayern Munich striker scored twice in the space of ten minutes.
The Poles added two more goals early in the second half, Milik making it five with a neat finish in the 56th minute before Lewandowski was brought down in the penalty area and Jakub Blaszczykowski stepped up to convert his spot-kick.
Milik added his second of the game with a volley, and Bartosz Kapustka got their eighth goal after 74 minutes.
But Gibraltar had the final word, with Jake Gosling on target in the 87th minute.