England, Netherlands win; Portugal disappoint again
Hamburg, Oct 16 (DPA) England, Spain and the Netherlands all maintained their perfect records in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with away wins, while Russia got their campaign back on track with a victory against Finland.
There was disappointment for Portugal, though, as they failed to beat a 10-man Albania at home, being held to a goalless draw in Braga that leaves them struggling with five points in Group 1.
Portugal dominated throughout the game but failed to take the lead against a compact Albanian side that was well prepared by Dutch coach Arie Haan.
The visitors were weakened midway through the first half when Elvin Beqiri had to be substituted for Admir Teli. The Turkish-based defender was booked 12 minutes after coming on.
Just six minutes later, three minutes from the break, Teli received a second yellow card, and German referee Knut Kircher had to send off the 27-year-old.
Playing against just 10 players for the entire second half, the home side had plenty of opportunities but failed to find a winning goal.
England's Steven Gerrard gave Fabio Capello's side an early lead against Belarus in Minsk, and though Pavel Sitko levelled for the home side, a second-half brace from Wayne Rooney sealed a deserved 3-1 win.
'I think it was really good,' Rooney said. 'We had to work really hard tonight. They were a really good footballing side, probably the same style as Arsenal, but we worked hard and deserved the points tonight.'
The victory moves England to 12 points from four matches in Group 6, the first time they have ever won their opening four games of a World Cup campaign, putting them five points clear of Ukraine and Croatia, who thumped Andorra 4-0.
The Dutch made it three wins out of three in Group 9 with a 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo, where Mark van Bommel scored the winner after 62 minutes. Iceland beat Macedonia by the same scoreline in Reykjavik through an effort from Veigar Gunnarsson to move joint second in the group alongside Scotland with four points.
Two own goals by Finland helped Russia to a 3-0 victory in Group 4. Petri Pasanen and Veli Lampi were the unfortunate players to put into their own net for Finland, while Andrei Arshavin scored the third late for Guus Hiddink's Russia side.
Russia now sit joint second in the group, level with Wales and four points behind Germany, who struggled to a 1-0 victory over the Welsh until Piotr Trochowski finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute with a well-taken shot from just outside the area for his first international goal.
Slovakia moved atop Group 3 after coming from behind to beat Poland 2- 1, while the Czech Republic got their first win of the campaign with Libor Sionko netting a second-half goal for a 1-0 win at home to Slovenia. Northern Ireland beat San Marino 4-0 in the other group game.
In Group 2, Israel played out a 1-1 draw at Latvia, who salvaged a point thanks to Vladimirs Kolesnichenko's late equalizer, while group leaders Greece were stunned 2-1 at home to Switzerland, and Luxembourg and Moldova played out a scoreless draw.
A brace from Alberto Aquilani helped Italy beat Montenegro 2-1 in Lecce. The world champions now have 10 points from four games and lead Group 8 ahead of Ireland, who trail on seven points after beating Cyprus 1-0 in their third game, thanks to an early close-range header from Robbie Keane.
Bulgaria registered a third draw in succession after the other game in the group against Georgia finished scoreless.
Serbia sit joint top in Group 7 with nine points after beating Austria 3-1, level with Lithuania, who struggled to a 1-0 victory against the Faroe Islands.
In Group 5, David Villa kept Spain on course for qualification by heading in the late winner in the 2-1 win at dogged Belgium.
The European champions had to dig deep to win in rainy Brussels, because Belgium took an early lead, then battled manfully until the bitter end.
The late win leaves Spain top of the group with 12 points from four games, four points ahead of Turkey - who were held to a 0-0 draw at Estonia - and five ahead of luckless Belgium. Bosnia-Herzegovina enjoyed a resounding 4-1 win over Armenia.
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