Friday proved to be a day of shocking results and upsets throughout the whole of the European World Cup qualifying campaign. Will Burns is here with a quick look at the results and league standings.
Croatia 0-1 Scotland: Gordon Strachan’s Scotland pulled off a tremendous 1-0 shock win in Zagreb when Norwich City’s Robert Snodgrass shot The Tartan Army into a 1-0 lead against Croatia. The Scots battled for ninety minutes and frustrated the Croats as Igor Stimac’s side are surely now cemented into second place with this loss.
Belgium 2-1 Serbia: The Red Devils are now three points ahead of Croatia in top spot after defeating Serbia 2-1. The Belgians took a two goal advantage with goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Marouane Fellaini. Manchester City’s Aleksandr Kolarov grabbed a late consolation, Serbia cannot possibly qualify now for second place.
Czech Republic 0-0 Italy: An act of pure petulance meant Mario Balotelli received a red card for the seventh time in his career in a game that Italy needed to win with Bulgaria breathing down their necks. The Czechs pressed and were a threat throughout but veteran ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon kept a point for the Azzuri.
Armenia 0-1 Malta: An early Michael Mifsud goal gave Malta their first away for TWENTY years and their first actual win for six years. Never since they defeated Estonia by the same scoreline in a World Cup qualifier in May 1993, have they tasted a win away from home.
Austria 2-1 Sweden: Johan Elmander scored late with a stunning chip to give Sweden a chance to earn a point, but they were unable to reverse Austria’s two first half goals. The Austrians lead in the race for the playoff place, with Germany having a stranglehold on top spot in Group C. Bayern Munich’s David Alaba scored a penalty after 25 minutes with Marc Janko hitting the second.
Republic of Ireland 3-0 Faroe Islands: Robbie Keane notched a hat-trick in his historic record-breaking 126th appearance for Ireland. He now surpasses goalkeeper Shay Given to be the Ireland most capped player. Keane ensured his side would be celebrating a triumph with goals in the fifth, 55th and 81st minutes to extend his tally as also Ireland’s record goalscorer to 59.
Albania 1-1 Norway: A 87th minute goal by Norweigan defender Tom Hogli prevented emerging European nation Albania going to the top of the table as they shared the points. The hosts took the lead just before half-time with a 41st minute goal from Valdet Rama. Albania, who have never qualified for the finals of a major tournament, have 10 points from six games, one behind group leaders Switzerland.
Iceland 2-4 Slovenia: Lars Lagerbäck’s Iceland slipped to third place in Group E as the adventurous Slovenia earned a 4-2 victory that gave their own hopes a lift. Slovenia took the lead from a Andreas Kirm goal after just 11 minutes but Birkir Bjarnason equalized on 22 minutes. Heerenveen hitman Alfred Finnbogason scored a spot-kick second for the hosts as they looked to command the game, but Slovenia’s Valter Birsa hit a penalty of his own just five minutes later. Two extra goals from Boštjan Cesar and René Krhin in the second half clinched the three points for the visitors.
Azerbaijan 1-1 Luxembourg: Stefano Bensi earned Luxembourg a point with a 79th-minute equaliser in an entertaining draw in Baku. Both, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg are still looking for their first win in Group F. Azerbaijan took a 71st minute lead with Ruslan Abışov notching but Bensi got the leveller eight minutes later.
Portugal 1-0 Russia: Hélder Postiga’s 26th international goal earned Portugal a victory that moves them top of Group F, two points above Fabio Capello’s Russia. Although it must be said that Russia have two games in hand on the leaders so nothing is over in Group F as of yet.
Latvia 0-5 Bosnia-Herzegovina: Bosnia and Herzegovina scored five second-half goals past ten-men Latvia to record a convincing 5-0 victory and tighten their grip at the top of Group G. The hosts were up against it from the moment Aleksandrs Fertovs was dismissed after just 11 minutes. Latvia nonetheless held firm until Senad Lulić broke the deadlock three minutes after the break. Vedad Ibišević and Haris Medunjanin extended Bosnia’s lead before Miralem Pjanić and Edin Džeko hit the final goals.
Liechtenstein 1-1 Slovakia: Liechtenstein were 17 minutes away from claiming a first win in Group G but earned their second draw in a row to prevent Slovakia keeping pace with both Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the top of the table. With the top two sides picking up victories, Stanislav Griga’s play-off chasers are four points behind the second-placed Greeks, but things could have been much worse after Martin Büchel put the hosts ahead at the Rheinpark. However, Ján Ďurica headed a second-half goal to save his country against the section’s bottom team, who nevertheless take great pride from a pair of undefeated outings.
Lithuania 0-1 Greece: Fernando Santos’s Greece cemented their place in second thanks to a twenty minute Lazaros Christodoulopoulos’s goal.
Moldova 1-1 Poland: Poland dropped precious points in their quest to qualify for the finals after being held to a 1-1 draw by Moldova. The visitors started brightly in Chisinau and were rewarded when skipper Jakub Błaszczykowski struck on seven minutes. Eugeniu Sidorenco hit back half an hour later, before Moldova weathered a late storm to earn a share of the spoils and leave Poland five points shy of Montenegro at the summit.
Montenegro 0-4 Ukraine: The visitors moved to within three points of Group H leaders Montenegro as they won an action-packed affair in Podgorica, scoring four times against a side that ended with nine men. The hosts had the opportunity to go five points clear of England in second at the top of the FIFA World Cup qualifying section with a win, and they appeared favourites to do so when Ukraine had Roman Zozulya dismissed on the stroke of half-time. However, Denys Garmash put the visitors ahead and Vladimir Volkov’s sending-off levelled up the numbers. Yevhen Konoplyanka, Artem Fedetskiy and Roman Bezus all hit further goals, with Savo Pavićević also seeing red on a miserable night for Branko Brnović’s team.
Finland 1-0 Belarus: It was an even encounter at the Olympic Stadium, Helsinki and it was the hosts who got the decisive luck. Belorussian ‘keeper Sergei Veremko fumbled the ball into his own net in the 57th minute, under pressure from Kasper Hämäläinen, to hand Finland their maiden victory in the group.
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