Spain, Germany remain perfect in Euro 2012 qualifying

Associated Press
10/12/2010 7:01:47 PM
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LONDON -- Italy's European Championship qualifier against Serbia in Genoa was abandoned after just seven minutes on Tuesday because of crowd trouble on a night when defending champion Spain, the Netherlands and Germany maintained their perfect starts with victories in contrasting ways.

Serbia fans, who had clashed with police during the day, delayed the start of the Group C match by 45 minutes before throwing flares and fireworks onto the pitch once play finally began. Referee Craig Thomson stopped the game, with the score at 0-0, but Italy is likely to be awarded the victory 3-0 by default.

Spain squandered a two-goal lead against Scotland but Fernando Llorente's late volley earned the world champions a 3-2 win in Group I. Germany beat Kazakhstan 3-0 and World Cup runnerup the Netherlands routed Sweden 4-1.

Those three European powers are yet to drop a point in their respective groups but England was held 0-0 by Montenegro in a top-of-the-table Group G match to end its winning run.

Serbia fans have grown disillusioned with their team after its poor start to qualifying, which followed a first-round exit from the World Cup. The travelling support even whistled and booed the Serbian national anthem before making its dissatisfaction even more clear seven minutes into the match.

Serbia goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic was nearly hit by one of the flares thrown onto the pitch when the game started.

"The referee felt that the players' security couldn't be assured. Now it's up to UEFA and their disciplinary procedures," Italian football federation general secretary Antonello Valentini told state TV RAI.

Slovenia is Italy's nearest rival now after Andriy Sidorenkov's own goal gifted the team a 1-0 win at Estonia, which started the day in second. The other group match saw the Faeroe Islands drew 1-1 with Northern Ireland to pick up its first point.

David Villa became Spain's all-time record scorer with 45 goals when he put the World Cup winners ahead just before halftime from the penalty spot.

When Andres Iniesta made it 2-0 in the 55th, it looked as if Spain would ease to a third straight qualifying victory but Steven Naismith's header and an own goal by Gerard Pique brought Scotland level.

Llorente, however, ghosted in at the far post to volley in a left-wing cross by Joan Capdevila and spare Spain's blushes at Hampden Park.

"They fought until the last minute," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said of Scotland. "We managed to convert our chances but the comeback was down to pure hard work on their part."

The Czech Republic moved above Scotland into second place on six points with a 2-0 win at Liechtenstein, courtesy of first-half goals by Tomas Necid and Vaclav Kadlec.

Miroslav Klose took his international goals tally to 58 with the opener against Kazkhstan in the 48th minute, before further goals by Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski saw the Germans ultimately cruise home in the Group A match.

They remain with a perfect record after four games and have pulled five points clear of Austria, which drew 4-4 with Belgium to relinquish its 100 per cent record. Elsewhere in the group, Turkey lost 1-0 in Azerbaijan.

The Netherlands would have been expecting a tough match against Sweden, which had began group play with two convincing wins, but it ended up sweeping to a fourth consecutive Group E victory through goals in both halves by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Affellay.

"It was a very important match and we played really well. It's fantastic," Afellay said.

Hungary is second after beating Finland 2-1 away while Moldova won 2-0 in San Marino.

England failed to score for the first time in 21 matches at the rebuilt Wembley stadium as surprise group leader Montenegro secured a draw that keeps it unbeaten.

Elsewhere, Group D leader France failed to impress in a 2-0 home victory over 10-man Luxembourg, with Karim Benzema and Yoann Gourcuff scoring the goals, while Russia and 2004 European champion Greece are top of Groups B and F respectively after wins on Tuesday.

Portugal kept up its resurgence under new coach Paulo Bento with a 3-1 victory in Iceland, captain Cristiano Ronaldo setting the visitors on their way with the opener from a free kick in the fourth minute.

David Villa and Carlos Puyol (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)


(Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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