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Euro qualifiers: Germany edge N Ireland; Croatia held

September 10, 2019 09:32 IST

Germany's Marcel Halstenberg celebrates scoring their first goal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast  in their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group C match on Monday

IMAGE: Germany's Marcel Halstenberg celebrates scoring their first goal against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast in their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group C match on Monday. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

Germany beat hosts Northern Ireland 2-0 on Monday with two goals in the second half to get their Euro 2020 qualification on track as they bounced back from last week's loss to the Netherlands to take over top spot in Group C.

Defender Marcel Halstenberg drilled the ball in three minutes after the restart following a lacklustre first half by the Germans, who lost 4-2 at home to the Dutch on Friday.

Serge Gnabry continued his impressive scoring run for Germany, netting in second-half stoppage time for his ninth goal in his 10th international, completing Germany's eighth consecutive win over Northern Ireland.

 

The win put Germany on 12 points from five games, ahead on goal difference of second-placed Northern Ireland, who suffered their first loss of the campaign as captain Steven Davis became their most capped outfield player with 113 appearances.

The third-placed Netherlands, 4-0 winners away to Estonia on Monday, are on nine points from four matches.

"We were under pressure to win after Friday's result and we had to overcome some obstacles in the first half," Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters.

"The Northern Irish attacked early and disrupted our game. After the break we did it better."

The Germans, missing half a dozen injured players, seemed to lack a clear game plan in the first half with plenty of passing but struggling to find ways to open up the Irish defence.

Loew's young team, looking to recover from last year's shock first-round World Cup exit and Nations League relegation, have not had enough match practice and it showed.

"We had never played before with this line-up," Loew said.

"So we will need some patience because this a learning process."

Conor Washington had a golden chance to put the hosts ahead in the seventh minute when he pounced on a rare Toni Kroos mistake but fired straight at charging goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Timo Werner had the visitors' best chance before the break but his close-range effort was saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Germany looked to be feeling the effects of Friday's loss with the Irish working hard to stifle their attacks early.

"We managed to stop them building the game and got joy off pressing and winning the ball higher up the pitch," the hosts' coach Michael O'Neill told Sky.

"It's very difficult to do that against this level of opposition. I'm proud of what they gave."

Halstenberg eventually settled German nerves, timing his half-volley to perfection as he angled Julian Brandt's cross into the far corner just after the break.

They should have scored again in a scintillating start to the second half but instead had to wait until deep into stoppage for Gnabry to make sure of the three points.

Misfiring Croatia go top as Slovakia stun Hungary

Croatia's Bruno Petkovic in action with Azerbaijan's Anton Krivotsyuk and Bahlul Mustafazade during their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group E match at Bakcell Arena, Baku, Azerbaijan, on Monday

IMAGE: Croatia's Bruno Petkovic in action with Azerbaijan's Anton Krivotsyuk and Bahlul Mustafazade during their Euro 2020 Qualifier Group E match at Bakcell Arena, Baku, Azerbaijan, on Monday. Photograph: Aziz Karimov/Reuters

Croatia went top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group E despite being held to a surprise 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan as Hungary slipped to a shock 2-1 home defeat by neighbours Slovakia on Monday.

The results lifted Croatia into pole position on 10 points from five games, one ahead of Slovakia, who bounced back in style after Friday's 4-0 home drubbing by the Croatians, and Hungary.

Wales have six points from four games and Azerbaijan are on one point from five matches.

The Croatians took an 11th-minute lead thanks to a Luka Modric penalty after Anton Krivotsyuk handled the ball and then missed a hatful of chances before substitute Tamkin Khalilzade equalised with a solo effort.

The forward weaved his way past three defenders after cutting in from the left flank and beat goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic with a fine shot from eight metres.

Home keeper Emil Balayev twice denied Nikola Vlasic and also kept out a pair of Ante Rebic sitters in the first half, while Azerbaijan had two goals correctly ruled out for offside in an action-packed encounter.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic scorned his players for a below-par performance as it left them with work to do in order to qualify for next year's 24-nation tournament.

"Some of my players need to grow up," Dalic told reporters.

"We missed too many chances after taking an early lead and their goalkeeper also had an excellent afternoon. They stifled us in the second half and we only have ourselves to blame."

Hungary failed to capitalise on Croatia's slip-up as they conceded two goals against the run of play in front of a fervent home crowd in Budapest.

Robert Mak fired the visitors ahead in the 40th minute when he swept a loose ball into the net from seven metres after Marek Hamsik's teasing low cross from the right rebounded kindly.

The home side levelled in the 50th minute when 18-year-old Dominik Szoboszlai curled in a delightful free kick past keeper Martin Dubravka for his first international goal.

But the Hungarians were rocked again six minutes later when Slovakia's 19-year-old striker Robert Bozenik also netted the first goal for his country, driving in a crisp shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Mak fired over an empty net after a defensive mix-up several minutes later and Dubravka then rescued Slovakia when he kept out a rasping shot by midfielder Balazs Dzsudzsak.

De Bruyne inspires Belgium to 4-0 rout of Scotland

Belgium kept their 100 percent record intact in Euro 2020 qualifying Group I with a Kevin de Bruyne-inspired 4-0 demolition of a disappointing Scotland side at a subdued HampdenPark on Monday.

Roberto Martinez's side, top of the FIFA rankings, were a class above their hosts as they scored three times before halftime through Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld -- all created by De Bruyne.

The ManchesterCity craftsman then capped a superb individual display with a clinical finish late on.

Victory left Belgium with 18 points from six games, three more than second-placed Russia, who needed an 89th-minute goal by Mario Fernandes to beat Kazakhstan 1-0.

The top two go through to next year's finals.

Scotland's joint heaviest home defeat means their slender hopes of qualifying from the group are virtually over, although they could still reach the tournament via the Nations League playoffs, with a semi-final place already secured.

"We started a bit iffy but I think after we scored we controlled the game," De Bruyne told Sky Sports.

"Defensively we didn't give much away. It was a really good performance."

Belgium needed only nine minutes to take the lead with their first serious foray into Scottish territory.

Moments after Scotland had a free kick at the other end, Belgium counter-attacked in deadly fashion with Dries Mertens driving forward before finding De Bruyne who rolled a pass across the pitch for Lukaku to score with ease.

It completely knocked the stuffing out of the Scots and it was 2-0 in the 24th minute when De Bruyne whipped in a cross and Vermaelen arrived to side-foot past keeper David Marshall.

The game was effectively over already and Scotland's night got even worse in the 32nd minute when De Bruyne swung over a corner and an unmarked Alderweireld headed in off the crossbar.

It was a passion-less display by Scotland and Belgium could afford the luxury of playing the rest of the match in cruise control as they claimed another easy three points.

De Bruyne saved the best goal to last as he planted a first-time shot past Marshall after being played in by Lukaku.

Scotland dropped to second from bottom in the table after Cyprus beat San Marino 4-0 to move above the Scots by a point.

"It's difficult to try and sugarcoat a 4-0 defeat," Scotland manager Steve Clarke said.

"I thought we started the game well but we conceded a goal from our free kick. Then we conceded two goals from set plays and you can't afford three soft goals."

Babel's brace spurs Netherlands to 4-0 win in Estonia

Ryan Babel scored twice as a rampant Netherlands claimed a comfortable 4-0 victory over Estonia in their Euro 2020 Group C qualifier on Monday.

Memphis Depay added an excellent third to mark his 50th cap and Georginio Wijnaldum netted the fourth late on as the Dutch recorded back-to-back wins under manager Ronald Koeman for the first time following Friday’s 4-2 victory in Germany.

The Netherlands remain three points behind the top two in the pool, Germany and Northern Ireland, who have 12 points each. The Dutch have a game in hand.

Estonia slipped to a fifth successive loss in the qualifiers.

The home side started brightly though and created a few half-chances before the visitors took the lead in the 17th minute.

Daley Blind’s low cross from the left was prodded home by Babel, who had ghosted in between the Estonia central defenders and was left with the relatively simple task of placing the ball past goalkeeper Sergei Lepmets.

Wijnaldum saw his shot from the edge of the box saved by Lepmets and the Dutch, for all their domination of possession, failed to add to their tally before halftime.

They scored a second three minutes after the break as Babel rose to head home a Depay’s cross from the right in what was another easy finish.

Netherlands skipper Virgil Van Dijk headed just wide from a free kick, but the visitors got their reward for some adventurous attacking play when Depay controlled the ball on the edge of the box and place a left-footed shot into the corner.

Wijnaldum’s fourth was a gift from Lepmets when his header went under the goalkeeper in what should have been a routine save.

Poland's lead at the top cut after goalless draw with Austria

Poland were held to a 0-0 draw in a top-of-the-table clash with Austria in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday as their lead in Group G was cut to two points after Slovenia's win over Israel.

Poland's had a 100% record after four games in the campaign but that ended with a shock 2-0 loss at Slovenia on Friday.

Austria came close to taking the lead in the 10th minute when Marko Arnautovic's header hit the post.

Poland's 31-year-old striker Robert Lewandowski, making a record 108th appearance for his country, missed the target in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Cican Stankovic after a cross by Kamil Grosicki just before the half-hour mark.

Lewandowski's caps record was equalled by midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, 33, when he came on in the 58th, although the midfielder had to go off injured 19 minutes later.

Poland are top with 13 points from six games, two ahead of Slovenia who beat Israel 3-2 with Benjamin Verbic scoring twice including the 90th-minute winner.

Austria are third with 10 points, two ahead of North Macedonia, who defeated Latvia 2-0 away, and Israel.

Latvia remain bottom of the six-team section without a point and with a goal difference of minus 20.

The top two teams qualify for next year's finals.

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