NYON: First-half goals from Marco Reus and Thomas Muller lifted world champions Germany to a comfortable, if not impressive, 2-0 victory over Georgia in their Euro 2016 Group D qualifier.
Reus swept home a loose ball in the 39th minute before Muller doubled the world champions’ advantage just before half-time with a lucky rebound for his fifth goal in qualifying.
Joachim Low’s men had chances for more and never looked in danger of conceding but it was still not the most inspiring of performances from a side who have struggled notably since lifting the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
They are now on 10 points, along with Scotland, who overcame the ignominy of becoming the first side to concede a competitive goal to Gibraltar to thrash the minnows 6-1.
Shaun Maloney’s 18th-minute penalty was almost immediately cancelled out by Lee Casciaro as UEFA’s newest members briefly threatened to provide a major upset.
But the Scots regrouped and Steven Fletcher struck after the half-hour before another Maloney penalty and Steven Naismith’s strike took them out of sight before half-time.
Fletcher struck twice late on to become the first Scotland player to net a treble since Colin Stein hit four against Cyprus in 1969.
A single goal from Claudiu Keseru was enough for Romania to see off theFaroe Islands and remain top of Group F.
The Al-Gharafa forward struck in the 20th minute and though there were other opportunities for the home team, an improved Faroes defence restricted them to a 1-0 scoreline.
Romania thus remain a point ahead of Northern Ireland, who defeated Finland2-1 thanks to a brace from Kyle Lafferty, with substitute Berat Sadik scoring an injury-time consolation for the Scandinavian side.
In Group I, Mergim Mavraj and Shkelzen Gashi scored in the final 13 minutes as Albania claimed a 2-1 win over 10-man Armenia, who went ahead through Yura Movsisyan but had Hovhannes Hambardzumyan sent off to turn the clash in their opponents’ favour.
. . . and on Saturday:
Gareth Bale turned on the style as Wales took a huge step towards qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Israel in the Group B clash in Haifa.
Bale came into the contest after criticism in Spain for his form at Real Madrid but the 25-year-old scored twice and set up Aaron Ramsey’s opener as Wales took over top spot by ending Israel’s 100 per cent record.
A Marouane Fellaini brace and further strikes from Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi earned Belgium a 5-0 victory over Cyprus in Brussels in the same group.
Fellaini and Benteke struck in the first half to give Belgium a commanding 2-0 lead before the break, before Fellaini, Hazard and Batshuayi netted in the second to complete a commanding victory for Marc Wilmots’ side.
Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko racked up a hat-trick for Bosnia and Herzegovina as they picked up their first win of the qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory over Andorra, also in Group B.
Vaclav Pilar’s last-minute equaliser saw the Czech Republic snatch a point as they salvaged a 1-1 draw against Latvia in Euro 2016 Qualifying Group A in Prague.
Aleksejs Visnakovs’ 30th minute-goal had put Latvia on course for their first victory in the group before Pilar was in the right place to turn in a rebound moments before the final whistle.
The Czechs, who had started the day three points clear at the top, are now just one ahead of Iceland after they took a 3-0 victory against Kazakhstan in Astana.
Eidur Gudjohnsen celebrated his return from international retirement by opening the scoring before Birkir Bjarnason’s double completed a comfortable win for Iceland.
Holland continued to struggle in their qualifying campaign as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Turkey at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday.
Burak Yilmaz fired Turkey into the lead thanks to a deflection in the 37th minute and Holland had to wait until second-half stoppage time for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to score the equaliser which saw them narrowly avoid their third defeat in Group A.
Croatia claimed a comfortable 5-1 victory over Norway in an entertaining Group H clash at the Stadion Maksimir.
The Group H leaders went three points clear at the top ahead of second-placed Italy’s Saturday evening clash in Bulgaria thanks to goals from Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic, Ivica Olic, Gordon Schildenfeld and Danijel Pranjic, while they lost Vedran Corluka to a red card midway through the second half.
Tarik Elyounoussi missed a penalty for Norway with 20 minutes left and Alexander Tettey netted a consolation to leave them third, four points off the lead.
Eder marked his Italy debut in style with a brilliant equaliser as they kept their qualifying run going in Bulgaria.
The Azzurri had not lost in 44 qualifying fixtures going into this clash – a run dating back to 2006 – but that was seriously under threat as they trailed 2-1 with eight minutes left.
But Sampdoria’s Brazil-born striker had other ideas and curled in an equaliser from the edge of the box to secure a 2-2 draw.
It had looked as though new Bulgaria coach Ivaylo Petev was going to start his reign with a win, with Ivelin Popov and Iliyan Mitsanski having washed out Iordan Minev’s early own goal.
Azeris win at last
Azerbaijan prevailed in the battle of the Group H minnows as they beat Malta 2-0.
Javid Huseynov scored the opening goal of the game four minutes in and it looked enough to decide a tie which features two sides who had one point between them prior to kick-off.
But Dimitrij Nazarov added an injury-time second for good measure to wrap things up.
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