Spain, Germany, Dutch and Portugal win in style
London: The cream began to rise to the top of the Euro 2012 qualifying groups with world and European champions Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Portugal all winning their matches in style on Friday.
Spain saw off Lithuania 3-1 in Salamanca to take their tally to six points from two games and move to the top of Group I with all three goals coming from headers -- two by Fernando Llorente and one from David Silva.
Germany stayed top of Group A with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Berlin with Miroslav Klose scoring twice to take his tally for Germany to 57 goals, while the Dutch won 1-0 in Moldova to take over first place in Group E with a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar strike.
Klose, who moved to within 11 goals of Gerd Mueller’s all-time national record of 68, said he seemed to have more luck scoring for Germany than for Bayern Munich.
“It’s never been my aim to catch up with Gerd, he is a phenomenon,” added Klose.
Forty thousand Turkish fans made it a lively atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium and they booed every time Mesut Ozil, who opted to play for Germany rather than Turkey last year, touched the ball. The midfielder had the last laugh, though, scoring Germany’s second in the 79th minute.
Portugal beat Denmark 3-1 in Porto with Nani scoring twice in two minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo adding the third to jump from fourth to second in Group H behind surprise leaders Norway.
Although most of the contenders for the European crown at the finals in Poland and Ukraine have only played three matches, it was largely business as usual across the continent.
Former world champions Italy bucked the trend by being held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast but remained top of Group C with second-placed Serbia slumping to an unexpected 3-1 defeat at home to unfancied Estonia.
France and England, hoping to put their World Cup failure bbehind them by the time of the Euro finals, were not in action.
France play Romania in their Group D match on Saturday at the Stade de France and England will look to maintain their unbeaten start in Group G against surprise unbeaten leaders Montenegro next Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.
Montenegro, who have only been playing as an independent nation for three years and have a tiny pool from which to chose their team, maintained their unexpectedly excellent start when they beat Switzerland 1-0 to preserve a 100 percent record.
Montenegro’s Mirko Vucinic scored the winner after 68 minutes against the Swiss when he chipped the ball home from a narrow angle and then celebrated in bizarre style by taking his shorts off and putting them on his head, earning a yellow card.
Switzerland were the only team to beat eventual champions Spain at this year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Norway, like Montenegro another surprisingly successful package, maintained their place at the head of Group H. They took their tally to nine points with a 2-1 win in Cyprus with goals from John Arne Riise and John Carew.
World champions Spain were pegged back briefly by Lithuania when Darvydas Sernas cancelled out Llorente’s first header but in the end the Spanish won comfortably.
“These were three very important points for us,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque told Spanish TV. “We lacked shape in the first half but we improved and were deserved winners.”
There were few surprises on the night but there were upsets for Slovakia, who lost 3-1 away to Armenia in Group B, and Serbia, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Estonia in Group C.
Former world champions Italy dropped their first points when they were held to a goalless draw by Northern Ireland in their Group C match in Belfast.
Russia held on to beat Ireland 3-2 in Dublin after the Irish hit back with two goals late in the second half of their Group B match.
Italian coach Cesare Prandelli, rebuilding the side after an awful World Cup campaign, told Rai TV: “I’m satisfied. At a difficult venue, we have tried to win.
“We fought right till the end. We knew it was a particular atmosphere but we kept our balance for 90 minutes.”
Hungary were the highest scorers on the night, crushing minnows San Marino 8-0 in Budapest in their Group E game.