England and Spain maintain perfect starts | inside World Soccer

England and Spain maintain perfect starts

Thursday, October 16, 2008

England and Spain maintained their perfect starts in World Cup qualifier by beating Belarus and Belgium respectively before going into a six-month break.

Fabio Capello's men is off to its best start in World Cup qualifier after Wayne Rooney knocked in a second half brace in the 3-1 win over Belarus at Minsk.

Steven Gerrard opened the scoring for England after 11 minutes with a curving long range effort after being set up by Rooney. It was his first competitive goal for his country since his double 19 months ago in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra.

The hosts equalised in the 28th minute when Pavel Sitko fired home a close-range header past David James.

However, England turned in an improved display in the second period and needed only five minutes after the break to regain their lead when Rooney tapped in an Emile Heskey cross.

Rooney then killed off the game with his second on 74 minutes after exchanging passes with Gerrard.

England should have made it 4-1 in the closing minutes but Gerrad hit the post with the goal at his mercy after rounding Belarus keeper Alexander Kulchy.

David Beckham came in as a late substitute for Rooney and made his 107th appearance for the Three Lions, moving past Sir Bobby Charlton in the all-time list.

The victory leaves England sit on top of Group 6 and leads Ukraine and Croatia by five points.

European champions Spain stretched its unbeaten streak to 27 matches as they came from behind to grab a 2-1 win in Belgium.

After Wesley Sonk headed the Belgians ahead on seven minutes, the visitors were forced to replace Liverpool striker Fernando Torres in the 16th minute after suffering a thigh injury.

However, La Furia Roja were not to be rattled as they levelled in the 36th through Andrés Iniesta before David Villa struck the winner in the closing stages.

Spain top Group 5 with four points lead over Turkey, while Belgium have slipped to third.

The Netherlands also maintained their perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-0 victory at Norway.

Bayern Munich's Mark van Bommel grabbed the winner in the 63rd minute with a 20-yard magnificent volley.

Bert van Marwijk’s men are in the pole position in Group 9 with nine points from three matches, leading Scotland and Iceland by five points.

At Mönchengladbach, a 72nd minute stunner from Piotr Trochowski gave Germany a 1-0 victory over Wales.

Despite their dominance during in the first half, Joachim Low's side just could not find a way through Wales' back-four.

However, the pressure finally paid off on 72 minutes when Trochowski provided some beautifully controlled football 30 yards out and with a delicate finish scored his first international goal.

The Germans now are four points clear over Russia and Wales in Group 4.

At Lecce, defending champions Italy were forced to work hard for a 2-1 win over Montenegro.

Alberto Aquilani put the Azzurri ahead in the eighth minute, but the visitors equalised 11 minutes later through Aquilani’s AS Roma team-mate Mirko Vučinić.

However, Marcello Lippi's men restored their lead on 29 minutes when Aquilani volleyed home his second.

The victory maintains Italy's three points lead over Ireland in Group 8.

In Braga, Portugal were held to a goalless draw at home against Albania, which played with ten men for the final 50 minutes.

Admir Teli was sent off three minutes before the break after he hit Cristiano Ronaldo in the face with a forearm, but the Seleccao could not break down Albania's stubborn resistance.

Denmark, who were not in action, remain in pole position and joined by Hungary, who defeated Malta 1-0, on seven points at the top of Group 1.

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