Fri, Oct 17, 2008 - Page 19 News List

SOUTH AFRICA 2010: Spain, England, Netherlands win again

VICTORS Wayne Rooney scored twice for England, the Netherlands opened up a five-point lead in Group 9 and Spain stretched their unbeaten run to 27 games

AP , LONDON

Italy’s Alberto Aquilani, left, is chased by teammate Andrea Dossena after scoring against Montenegro during their match in Lecce, Italy, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Spain, England and the Netherlands maintained their perfect starts in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday to open up big leads in the race for places at the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

Portugal’s faltering challenge continued with a 0-0 draw at home to 10-man Albania.

David Villa, the leading scorer at this year’s European Championship, scored a late winner for Spain in a 2-1 victory in Belgium after the Euro 2008 winners had fallen behind in Brussels after just seven minutes.

After Wesley Sonk had fired the Belgians ahead, Andres Iniesta equalized in the 36th and Spain stretched their unbeaten streak to 27 games.

After four Group 5 victories, coach Vicente del Bosque’s team now have a four-point lead over Turkey, who jumped above Belgium into second place after a 0-0 draw in Estonia.

England are off to their best ever start in World Cup qualifying and Wayne Rooney was again England’s star, scoring two goals in a 3-1 win in Belarus only days after finding the net twice in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Kazakhstan at Wembley.

After victories in Andorra and Croatia, England have a five-point advantage over Ukraine and Croatia in Group 6 going into a six-month break in qualifying.

“We had to work very hard,” Rooney said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates. It’s a great three points. Twelve points from the first four games is a great boost for us.”

Helped by two goals for Ivan Rakitic, Croatia outplayed last-place Andorra 4-0 to draw level on seven points with Ukraine, who didn’t have a game and next play in England on April 1.

The Netherlands also hold a five-point advantage in Group 9 after beating Norway 1-0.

A minute after Dirk Kuyt had hit the crossbar, Mark van Bommel scored in the 64th minute. The Dutch have nine points from three games, five more than nearest rivals, Scotland and Iceland, who jumped from fifth to third by edging Macedonia 1-0.

“We knew it was going to be a very tough game,” Netherlands captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. “We are very happy with the three points. It gives us a lot of trust and confidence going into the future.”

10 MEN

Portugal stumbled to a scoreless draw with Albania in Group 1. The Albanians had to play the last 50 minutes with 10 men after Admir Teli was shown his second yellow card when his forearm hit Cristiano Ronaldo in the face.

Denmark, who didn’t have a game, are level on seven points with Hungary, who jumped from fifth to second after winning 1-0 in Malta. Two points behind are Portugal, Albania and Sweden.

Alberto Aquilani’s first two international goals helped World Cup holders Italy stay three points clear at the top of Group 8 by beating Montenegro 2-1 in Lecce. The Italians lead Ireland who edged Cyprus 1-0 in Dublin.

“I want to compliment my players. They worked hard, fought, risked and suffered,” said Italy coach Marcello Lippi.

Germany edged Wales 1-0 with a 72nd-minute goal by Piotr Trochowski in Moenchengladbach to open a four-point advantage over Russia and the Welsh in Group 4. Helped by two own-goals and a late strike by Andrei Arshavin, Russia outplayed Finland 3-0.

“We are very pleased with our situation in the group,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “Three wins and one draw, it’s very good.”

Slovakia’s Stanislav Sestak scored in the 85th and 86th minutes to overturn Poland’s lead and win 2-1 at home to jump from third to first in Group 3.

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