• World Cup qualifying round-up

England smash eight, Wales win, Ireland hold Sweden

ESPN staff
March 22, 2013 « Djokovic saunters to win over Rosol | Chartbeat test »
Wayne Rooney scored from a free-kick in England's win over San Marino © PA Photos
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England indulged in the expected goal-fest by netting eight against San Marino in Friday's World Cup qualifier, while Wales turned the tables on Scotland at Hampden Park. Elsewhere, Republic of Ireland earned an admirable draw in Sweden.

Roy Hodgson's England outfit did what was expected of them in San Marino, outclassing their part-time opposition for an 8-0 victory that bolsters their goal difference column. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jermain Defoe(2), Ashley Young, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge all got on the scoresheet in addition to an Alessandro Della Valle own goal, as Hodgson rested some of his key players.

The night started poorly with pre-match news that Theo Walcott had been ruled out of both England qualifiers with a groin injury. Hodgson also elected to rest captain Steven Gerrard and protect James Milner and Ashley Cole - both a booking away from suspension.

However, England still had more than enough and it was captain Lampard who was first to threaten, forcing a smart stop from the home keeper at his near post. Oxlade-Chamberlain then latched onto Rooney's nod-down but looped his effort onto the bar.

England's breakthrough came on 13 minutes as Leighton Baines' low cross was turned into his own net by Della Valle under pressure from Rooney. Defoe should then have doubled the lead from five yards, but instead it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who netted the second after exchanging a one-two with Rooney.

The game was no more than a training exercise of attack v defence, with Defoe next to tap home, although England's fourth - from Young - belonged in a game of greater magnitude as he slammed home off the underside of the bar. Still there was enough time before the interval for Lampard to roll home number five from Baines' cut-back, and more followed after the break.

Hal Robson-Kanu scores the second goal for Wales © Getty Images
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Rooney bent home a free-kick early in the second period before being withdrawn for Sturridge, who promptly nodded the seventh. Defoe then tapped home his second from Kyle Walker's cut-back to complete the scoring.

The big game is still to come for England, who now head to Montenegro looking to close a two-point deficit at the top. Montenegro were 1-0 winners over Moldova despite having Milorad Pekovic sent off, with Mirko Vucinic grabbing a vital goal 12 minutes from time before Alexandr Gatcan's late dismissal for Moldova.

Elsewhere in Group H Poland failed to stay in the hunt as they lost 3-1 to Ukraine on home soil. Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleg Gusev struck inside the opening seven minutes for Ukraine, and a further effort from Roman Zozulya ensured the Poles fell six points adrift of England despite Lukasz Piszczek's reply.

Wales came from behind to inflict another defeat on 10-man Scotland at the bottom of Group A, winning 2-1 at Hampden Park. Grant Hanley opened the scoring in Gordon Strachan's first game in charge, but Robert Snodgrass earned a second yellow when giving away a penalty that Aaron Ramsey converted, and then Hal Robson-Kanu lifted Wales to six points - seven adrift of second place.

Scotland lost striker Steven Fletcher to a serious-looking knee injury after four minutes and had to withstand heavy Wales pressure in the opening half, but they entered the interval ahead after Hanley headed home at a corner on the stroke of half-time.

Wales were without Gareth Bale for the second period and Scotland took greater control of the contest, hitting a post through Snodgrass. However, when the Norwich man was dismissed Ramsey rattled the resulting penalty off the underside of the bar before Robson-Kanu headed home the winner. Ramsey did not see the final whistle though, earning a second caution in injury-time.

Highlights: Israel 3-3 Portugal

The group's early fixture saw Croatia overcome Serbia 2-0 thanks to goals from Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic. Belgium later beat Macedonia 2-0, with Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard on the scoresheet, meaning both Croatia and Belgium are on course to qualify on 13 points.

Republic of Ireland significantly boosted their qualification hopes in Group C, drawing 0-0 away to Sweden to stay within a point of second place. Ireland, who boast a fine away record under Giovanni Trapattoni, tired after a superb opening 20 minutes but held firm in a tight encounter to claim a valuable point.

Germany will expect to top the group after they moved to 13 points with a 3-0 win over Kazakhstan. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze notched in the space of three first-half minutes for Joachim Low's side before Thomas Muller added a third.

Austria are now level on points with Ireland after they recorded a 6-0 triumph over Faroe Islands, Philipp Hosiner(2), Andreas Ivanschitz, Zlatko Junuzovic, David Alaba and Gyorgy Garics bagging the goals.

Northern Ireland's home game against Russia was postponed from Friday evening until 3pm on Saturday amid freezing conditions and heavy snowfall. Belfast has been hit hard by another wave of bitterly cold weather, and match officials believed the threat of further heavy snow meant there was little chance the Group F match could be played.

Northern Ireland have the chance to cut the gap to second-placed Israel to two points, after the Israelis' 3-3 draw with Portugal. Fabio Coentrao's last-minute goal earned Portugal a face-saving point in Tel Aviv having trailed 3-1 with 20 minutes remaining. Cristiano Ronaldo played the full 90 minutes but did not score.

In the group's other game, Luxembourg drew 0-0 with Azerbaijan, meaning both sides stay below Michael O'Neill's men.

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