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Norwood helps Northern Ireland to crucial win

29 March 2015

Edwards skippers Aussies, Akpan earns South Africa draw

Royals midfielder Oliver Norwood followed the example set by Reading's Welsh duo on Saturday in helping Northern Ireland keep pace with group leaders Romania thanks to a 2-1 win over Finland this afternoon.

Norwood played the full ninety minutes as Kyle Lafferty's first half double earned Michael O'Neill's side a vital Group F victory to send them four points clear in the second automatic qualification place after Hungary's 0-0 draw at home to Greece.

Fellow midfielder Hope Akpan played the first half in a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Nelspruit. The Super Eagles thought they had won the friendly thanks to Ahmed Firaz Moosa's 85th minute goal, but Bongani Zungu equalised in injury time.

Ryan Edwards played 70 minutes as captain of the Olyroos, helping Australia's under-23 side to a 4-0 win against Chinese Taipei. A third fixture against Myanmar lies in wait for the young forward now after they battered Hong Kong in their opening international game of the break.

The Olyroos sit top of Group F on goal difference and will need just a draw against Myanmar in their final match to clinch an autmatic spot to the tournament that will decide the Olympic qualifiers. Top spot would ensure Australia automatic qualification for the final stages of qualifying in Qatar in January next year where a top-three finish would seal Edwards' side's passage to Brazil.

Though not involved in the qualifying tie, Alex Pearce's Republic of Ireland stole an injury time point at home to group leaders Poland, thanks to Shane Long's late leveller at the Aviva Stadium.

And Andrija Novakovich was an unused substitute for USA's under-20s side, who lost 2-1 to England's youngsters at Home Park this afternoon. Tab Ramos' side had played a game against Spurs' under-21 side earlier in the week behind closed doors.

Chris Gunter, Hal Robson-Kanu, Garath McCleary, new loan signing Kwesi Appiah, Aaron Kuhl and Harry Cardwell were all involved with their international sides earlier this weekend - you can read a full update of their achievements here.

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