Germany, Netherlands resume strong start to 2012 European Championship qualifying

By Stuart Condie, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Germany, Netherlands win in Euro 2012 qualifying

Spain, Germany and the Netherlands won Friday to maintain strong starts in qualifying for the 2012 European Championship, while rebuilding Italy drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland.

Germany eased past visiting Turkey 3-0, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored his sixth goal during qualifying to give injury-riddled Netherlands a 1-0 victory over Moldova and the top spot in Group E.

Italy, playing nearly at full strength, missed several chances, but remained in first place in Group C with much work to do following its dismal first-round exit from this year’s World Cup.

Spain, the world and European champion, beat Lithuania 3-1.

The Spanish were held by Lithuania until two minutes after halftime in Salamanca before Fernando Llorente scored twice and David Silva once to give the home side victory.

Spain has two wins from two Group I matches and leads by two points from Lithuania and Scotland, which lost 1-0 at Czech Republic.

Estonia upset Serbia 3-1 and Russia won 3-2 at Ireland.

World and European champion Spain was hosting Lithuania, while ailing Portugal was up against Denmark.

Miroslav Klose scored twice and Mesut Oezil once to lift Germany three points clear at the top of Group A.

Germany initially struggled to open up a well-organized opponent at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium but Klose broke the stalemate in the 42nd with a rebound after Thomas Mueller’s shot had hit the crossbar.

Oezil, a midfielder of Turkish heritage who was jeered throughout by visiting fans, scored on a powerful shot in the 79th and Klose wrapped up the win with three minutes left following an error by the Turkey goalkeeper.

Germany has the maximum nine points, with Austria — which beat Azerbaijan 3-0 — and Turkey tied at six.

Rafael van der Vaart set up Huntelaar’s 37th-minute goal with a quick pass through the defense as the Dutch made it three wins from three qualifiers despite the absence of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Theo Janssen, Eljero Elia, Hedwiges Maduro and Vurnon Anita.

“The first half went very well,” Van der Vaart said. “It was a shame we didn’t take more of our chances to make life easier.”

Hungary’s 8-0 win over San Marino was the biggest by any side so far in qualifying but was still some way short of Hungary’s national record — a 13-1 win over France in 1927 — and enough only for third place in the Group E.

The Netherlands has nine points, three more than Sweden and Hungary.

Italy struggled against an obdurate Northern Ireland defense in Belfast but Giampolo Pazzini missed a chance with four minutes left when he headed across goal. New Jersey’s Giuseppi Rossi collected the ball at the far post but could only put it into the side netting.

And in a sign of Italy’s weakness in defense, Northern Ireland then went close at the other end and goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano had to save Steven Davis’ low shot from a counterattack.

Four-time world champion Italy leads Group C with seven points from three games, three more than third-place Northern Ireland has taken from its two matches.

Estonia scored three goals in the last 30 minutes to rally from 1-0 down and take second place with a surprise 3-1 win at World Cup qualifier Serbia. Slovenia beat Faeroe Islands 5-1 in the other match with a hat trick by Tim Matavz.

Russia joined Ireland and Slovakia in a three-way tie at the top of Group B after Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov scored for a 3-2 win over the Irish in Dublin.

Slovakia, which made it through to the second round of the World Cup ahead of Italy, missed the chance to take sole possession of first place when it slumped to a shock 3-1 loss at Armenia, which got a goal from American-raised Yura Movsisyan.

Albania leads Group D after a 1-1 draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina, giving France or Romania the chance to take top spot when they meet in one of two matches Saturday.

Saturday’s other game is the Group F meeting between Israel and Croatia. Georgia and Greece share the Group F lead with five points after each won 1-0.

Montenegro leads Group G with a maximum nine points after beating Switzerland 1-0 and next heads to Wembley to meet England on Tuesday. Bulgaria is in third place after winning 1-0 at Wales for its first win.

Portugal won Paulo Bento’s first game as coach 3-1 against Denmark for its first win in qualifying.

Nani scored twice in three first-half minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo struck with five minutes left to take the Portuguese — who fired coach Carlos Queiroz last month after losing against Finland and drawing with Cyprus — to four points.

“We knew that we couldn’t afford mistakes” Portugal forward Hugo Almeida said. “This victory was enormously important for us.”

Norway won 2-1 at Cyprus to stay top of Group H with nine points, while Czech Republic beat Scotland 1-0 for its first points in Group I.

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