KYIV: Montenegro joined England on seven points at the top of table in World Cup qualifying Group H – temporarily at least – after winning 1-0 in Ukraine on an evening which provided unpredicted snags for Germany, Portugal and world and European champions Spain.
Montenegro owed their victory to a goal from Dejan Damjanovic while the group’s other game saw second-half strikes from Serghei Dadu and Alexandru Epureanu hand Moldova a 2-0 win at San Marino.
In Group A Belgium marched on with a 2-0 win over Scotland which raised speculation about the future of manager Craig Levein while Wales suffered a third defeat in four games as they went down by the same scoreline to Croatia in Osijek.
Elsewhere Italy continue to set the pace in Group B with a 3-1 home win over Denmark.
Goals from Riccardo Montolivo (33) and Daniele De Rossi (37) put Italy in charge but a home win looked in question when Denmark pulled a goal back through William Kvist Jorgensen (45) and the Azzurri lost Pablo Osvaldo to a straight red card 18 seconds into the second half for violent conduct.
However, Italy were not made to pay for that dismissal as Mario Balotelli made it 3-1 in the 54th minute to complete the scoring.
Italy’s lead now stands at four points after their two nearest challengers Bulgaria and Czech Republic drew 0-0 in Prague.
In Group C, Germany saw their 100pc start come to a remarkable end after Sweden fought back from 4-0 down to salvage a dramatic draw in Berlin.
Germany, fresh from their 6-1 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland on Friday, looked set for another big win as a brace from Miroslav Klose and further goals from Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil saw the hosts 4-0 up inside an hour.
However, hopes of a fourth successive win in Group C suddenly looked in doubt as Sweden, who had won both their opening qualifiers, pulled three goals back in a 14-minute spell through Zlatan Ibrahimovic (62), Mikael Lustig (64) and Johan Elmander (76). Rasmus Elm made it 4-4 in the third minute of stoppage time.
Also in Group C, Austria claimed a deserved 4-0 win over Kazakhstan with goals from Marc Janko (two), David Alaba and Martin Harnik.
Holland assumed control of Group D with a 4-1 win in Romania in their top-of-the-table clash in Bucharest.
Romania had not conceded a goal in their opening three wins but their perfect record was in ruins within the opening 45 minutes by goals from Jeremain Lens, Bruno Martins Indi and Rafael Van der Vaart.
Robin Van Persie completed the rout four minutes from the end with Romania’s consolation coming from a fine Ciprian Marica goal when they were 2-0 down.
Three points behind Holland are Hungary, who went behind to Mevlut Erdinc goal against Turkey but hit back to claim a 3-1 win thanks to efforts from Vladimir Koman, Adam Szalai and a Zoltan Gera penalty.
In the other group match, a 57th-minute Andres Oper header saw Estonia beat fellow strugglers Andorra 1-0.
In Group E Switzerland defeated Iceland 2-0 away from home with second-half goals from Tranquillo Barnetta and Mario Gavranovic and remain three points clear of Norway.
Norway trailed to a 42nd-minute Efstathios Aloneftis goal against Cyprus but recovered to win 3-1 with Brede Hangeland (45), Tarik Elyounoussi (81, penalty) and Joshua King (83) on the scoresheet.
Albania are in third place on six points after a Odise Roshi goal gave them a home victory over Slovenia.
Group F leaders Russia continued their 100 per cent start under Fabio Capello with a 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan, although they needed an 84th-minute Roman Shirokov penalty to claim a fourth win out of four.
Also in Group F Northern Ireland claimed a surprise 1-1 draw away to Portugal – for whom Cristiano Ronaldo was playing his 100th international – so Israel moved level with the Portuguese on points after beating bottom nation Luxembourg 3-0. Tomer Hemed scored twice either side of an Eden Ben Basat goal.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece lead Group G with 10 points. The Bosnians beat Lithuania 3-0 with goals from Vedad Ibisevic, Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic while Greece ended Slovakia’s unbeaten start thanks to a Dimitris Salpingidis goal.
Also, Latvia beat 10-man Liechtenstein 2-0 at home with goals from Vladimir Kamess and Edgars Gauracs.
In Group I world and European champions Spain conceded a stoppage-time equaliser against France in Madrid.
Spain looked on course to move three points clear of the French at the top of the table thanks to Sergio Ramos’ 25th-minute opener, with even Cesc Fabregas’ penalty miss just before half-time not looking set to cost Vicente del Bosque’s side dear.
But, with four minutes of injury time played, France snatched a 1-1 draw when Olivier Giroud, who had replaced Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema late on, headed in Franck Ribery’s cross.
Belarus beat Georgia 2-0 with Renan Bressan and Stanislav Dragun on the scoresheet.
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