FRANKFURT: thomas Muller scored twice as World Cup holders Germany continued their cruise on towards the finals in Rssia with a second consecutive 3-0 victory in qualifying Group C.
Joachim Low’s side followed up their opening triumph in Norway with an identical result against the Czech Republic in Hamburg and the result could easily have been more emphatic.
Muller fired a low opener past Czech keeper Tomas Vaclik in the 13th minute and after Toni Kroos added a second, Muller completed the scoring with his second midway through the second half.
Steven Davis put the home side ahead from the penalty spot in the 26th minute and things looked straightforward when the visitors had Mirko Palazzi sent off for a second yellow card early in the second half.
But San Marino held out until the 79th minute when Kyle Lafferty effectively secured victory for Michael O’Neill’s men, before Jamie Ward and a second from Lafferty boosted the home side’s goal difference in the dying stages.
Azerbaijan maintained their improbable 100 per cent start in Group C as Maksim Medvedev’s early strike proved enough to secure a shock 1-0 win over Norway in Baku.
England’s latest new era under Gareth Southgate kicked off with a predictably low-key 2-0 win over Group F rivals Malta at Wembley.
Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring with a 29th-minute header, Dele Alli added a second before the break and the scoreline would have been greater but for a series of missed chances and fine saves from Malta keeper Andrew Hogg.
Scotland rode their luck to grab a 1-1 draw against Lithuania at Hampden Park thanks to a late headed equaliser from James McArthur.
Gordon Strachan’s men looked to be heading for an embarrassing defeat when Fedor Cernych drilled home a 59th-minute opener – and the same player missed a golden chance to make it 2-0.
But McArthur was on hand to nod home from close range with time running out to rescue what could turn out to be a precious point for his side.
In the other game in Group F, substitute Rok Kronaveter scored the only goal of the game as Slovenia edged past Slovakia 1-0 in Ljubljana.
In Group E, Robert Lewandowski’s hat-trick gave Poland a 3-2 win over Denmark, despite Kamil Glik’s own goal and Yussuf Poulsen’s strike bringing the game back into the balance.
Romania cruised past 10-man Armenia 5-0. Bogdan Stancu scored an early penalty after Gor Malakyan was sent off and Adrian Popa, Razvan Marin, Nicolae Stanciu and Alexandru Chipciu completed a convincing win.
Montenegro routed Kazakhstan by the same scoreline with goals from Zarko Tomasevic, Nikola Vukcevic, Stevan Jovetic, Fatos Beqiraj and Stefan Savic.