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WC qualifiers: Netherlands win in Latvia; Wales draw with Czechs

October 09, 2021 13:29 IST
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Round-up of World Cup qualifiers played on Friday.

Netherlands' Davy Klaassen celebrates scoring their first goal with Virgil van Dijk as Latvia's Antonijs Cernomordijs reacts at Daugava Stadium, Riga, Latvia

IMAGE: Netherlands' Davy Klaassen celebrates scoring their first goal with Virgil van Dijk as Latvia's Antonijs Cernomordijs reacts at Daugava Stadium, Riga, Latvia. Photograph: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Davy Klaassen scored the only goal as the Netherlands beat Latvia 1-0 away in Riga on Friday to keep themselves ahead in a tightly contest World Cup qualifying group.

Klaassen was unmarked at the back post to tuck away Memphis Depay's corner after 19 minutes for the lone goal of the game, although the Dutch did dominate with almost relentless attacks in the closing 20 minutes and might have won by a larger margin.

 

Stefan de Vrij and Depay both sent good chances wide in the second half while at the other end of the field, Dutch goalkeeper Justin Bijlow made an important save from a corner in stoppage time to keep his side's full haul of points intact.

The Netherlands advanced to 16 points in Group G, two ahead of Norway and four in front of third placed Turkey after those two countries drew 1-1 in Istanbul at the same time.

It was a third win in four games for the Dutch since Louis van Gaal returned as coach and they are expected to move closer to World Cup qualification when they host Gibraltar in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

Latvia remained on five points with a single win from their seven qualifying group games.

Croatia stay on course with 3-0 win at Cyprus

Croatia's Marko Livaja celebrates scoring their third goal with Mario Pasalic at AEK Arena George Karapatakis, Larnaca, Cyprus

IMAGE: Croatia's Marko Livaja celebrates scoring their third goal with Mario Pasalic at AEK Arena George Karapatakis, Larnaca, Cyprus. Photograph: Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

Croatia stayed on course to qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup after goals from Ivan Perisic, Josko Gvardiol and Marko Livaja helped the 2018 runners-up to a 3-0 win at Cyprus in their Group H qualifier on Friday.

The result kept Croatia top on 16 points from seven games, ahead of Russia on goal difference after the Russians ground out a 1-0 home win over Slovakia. Third-placed Slovenia are six points behind the front-runners after they beat Malta 4-0 away.

Andrej Kramaric had a goal scrapped for offside after a lengthy VAR check and Luka Modric missed a penalty but the Croatians cruised to victory despite some poor finishing in the first half.

Perisic fired the visitors ahead on the stroke of halftime with a fine finish after Modric, who returned to the side after missing the previous three qualifiers, released the winger with a defence-splitting pass.

Neophytos Michael saved Modric's penalty in the 54th minute after Kramaric was brought down in the area before Nikola Vlasic fired into the side netting on the hour.

The keeper, who pulled off several fine saves in the first half, then denied Modric and substitute Josip Brekalo but was powerless when centre back Gvardiol made it 2-0 with his first international goal.

Gvardiol was left unmarked at the far post to steer the ball home in the 80th minute after Modric racked up another assist as he swung in a corner deflected into Gvardiol's stride by a Cyprus defender.

Livaja added the icing on the cake in stoppage time as he slid in to steer a Brekalo cross past Michael. The Croatians next play Slovakia at home while Cyprus host Malta and Russia visit Slovenia on Monday.

Wales fight back for 2-2 draw against Czechs in World Cup qualifier

A Daniel James strike helped Wales fight back to draw 2-2 with the Czech Republic in an entertaining World Cup qualifier on Friday after the visitor's goalkeeper had gifted the hosts a second half lead.

Wales opened the scoring in the 36th minute on the counter-attack when Aaron Ramsey fired home from a sharp angle after a James header from a long Neco Williams pass found the Juventus midfielder at the far post.

The hosts responded less than two minutes later when Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward palmed an Antonin Barak shot into the path of Jakub Pesek who swept the ball into the net to level the score.

The Czechs took the lead just after the break when Ramsey played a simple back pass to Ward who failed to control the ball and watched it dribble over the line in a match in which both sides created chances.

The visitors -- playing without an injured Gareth Bale -- levelled in the 69th minute after substitute Harry Wilson slotted a through ball to James who drove a shot past Czech keeper Tomas Vaclik into the far corner.

The Czechs have eight points from six matches in Group E, level with Wales but sit in second place behind leaders Belgium on goal difference. The Czechs next face Belarus away on Oct. 11 while Wales take on Estonia.

Own goal gives Russia 1-0 win over Slovakia

An own goal by Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar handed Russia a 1-0 home win in their World Cup qualifier in Group H on Friday.

In an attempt to clear the ball from the six-yard box, Skriniar sloppily deflected a dangerous cross by Arsen Zakharyan past goalkeeper Marek Rodak, handing Russia the lead in the 24th minute.

Slovakia dominated possession, their best chances coming late in the first half. Russian goalkeeper Matvei Safonov denied Lukas Haraslin with a diving save, and a low strike by Slovak midfielder Ondrej Duda sailed just wide of the far post.

Slovakia pressed in the second half but failed to capitalise against a revitalised Russian side under the leadership of new coach, Valery Karpin.

With their win on Friday, Russia remain second in Europe's Group H with 16 points, trailing Croatia on goal difference. Slovakia are in fourth place with nine points.

Russia face Slovenia while Slovakia take on Croatia on Monday.

Norway fight back to hold Turkey to 1-1 draw in Istanbul

Turkey were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Norway in a result that could be costly for the hosts in their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, as they stayed two points behind their opponents and four behind Group G leaders the Netherlands.

Turkey had an impressive start, taking the lead after six minutes with Olympique de Marseille midfielder Cengiz Under finding Kerem Akturkoglu who only had to tap the ball in.

Norway equalised shortly before halftime following a short corner routine between Martin Odegaard and Jens Petter Hauge. Andreas Hanche-Olsen headed the ball on and Kristian Thorstvedt finished the move.

The second half had a slower tempo with fewer chances created by either team in contrast to the first 45 minutes.

The Dutch lead Group G with 16 points from seven matches, followed by Norway on 14 points and Turkey on 12.

Ahead of the match, Norway players unfurled a banner reading "Fair play for migrant workers" as part of a protest against World Cup hosts Qatar over the treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in construction of stadiums for next year's tournament.

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