FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Wales 0 Serbia 3

10 September 2013 22:38

Gareth Bale made his first competitive start of the season as Wales slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Serbia on Tuesday.

Goals from Filip Djordjevic, Aleksandar Kolarov and Lazar Markovic at the Cardiff City Stadium gave Serbia the win as they completed the double over their Welsh counterparts in Group A of UEFA’s FIFA World Cup section.

The home side rarely threatened the Serbia goal and a poor performance from Chris Coleman’s men saw them lose their sixth game of the campaign on Tuesday night.

Wales boss Coleman recalled Danny Gabbidon, Andy King, Andrew Crofts, and Sam Vokes to his starting XI but Bale was on the bench after coming through training on Monday in good condition.

Serbia fielded a strong line-up with Milan Bisevac, Ivan Radovanovic, Dusan Tadic and Filip Djuricic all coming into the starting line-up after Friday’s 1-1 draw with Croatia.

And after a quick start, the visitors took the lead inside eight minutes when Andrew Crofts kept Djordjevic onside and he headed home under no pressure inside the six-yard box.

Serbia continued to look dangerous from set-pieces with both Dusan Tadic and Branislav Ivanovic going close with efforts from free-kicks.

Wales did settle, with Aaron Ramsey creating a number of half-chances but a wonderful strike from Kolarov in the 38th minute doubled Serbia’s advantage when he let fly from distance to give Myhill no chance in the Wales goal.

The game was wrapped up in the 55th minute when Markovic reacted quickest following two efforts from Tadic and he side-footed the ball into the net.

Wales continued to be overrun but the home crowd did have something to cheer about when Bale was introduced into the game just before the hour mark.

The Real Madrid star went close on two occasions with testing efforts as he showed his superior skills despite a long lay-off this summer.

Bale again tested Vladimir Stojkovic in the Serbia goal with a long-range free-kick, but the Partizan Belgrade man reacted well to tip the ball over.

But Coleman’s side came out empty-handed and slumped to the bottom of the group, courtesy of Scotland’s win over Macedonia.

FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Macedonia 1 Scotland 2

10 September 2013 22:36

Ikechi Anya starred for Scotland as they recorded an impressive 2-1 win over Macedonia in Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier.

The Watford winger was the best player on the pitch in his first international start, and gave Scotland a deserved lead in the 59th minute.

The visitors had dominated the first half and were well worth their lead, but they looked like only getting a draw when Jovan Kostovski netted with seven minutes to play for Macedonia.

There was still time for the Scots to win it, though, as an 88th-minute free-kick from Shaun Maloney curled into the top corner.

Macedonia coach Chedomir Janevski made four changes to the side that beat Wales 2-1 on Friday, with Barcelona youngster David Babunski and attacker Adis Jahovic among the inclusions.

Anya made his first start for Scotland, who also brought in Barry Bannan and Steven Naismith in place of James Forrest, Leigh Griffiths and the suspended Robert Snodgrass.

Gordon Strachan’s decision to include Anya looked a wise one, with Scotland dominating the first-half play in Skopje.

The pace and trickery of Anya caused Macedonia several problems, and he created the first chance of the game, crossing for Naismith, who could only head over.

The pair should have linked up again moments later, but Naismith agonisingly failed to get anything on a terrific cut-back.

The chances kept coming for Scotland, as Scott Brown was denied by a good save from Macedonia goalkeeper Tomislav Pacovski, while Anya had a late chance of his own, only to see his curling effort tipped over.

Scotland were nearly made to pay for their profligacy on the stroke of half-time, but Jahovic wasted a good chance.

Jahovic initially ignored Goran Pandev, who was waiting for a cut-back, before firing into the side netting, as the two sides went to the break on level terms.

Macedonia were improved in the second half, and saw much more of the ball, but Scotland – who were forced to substitute goalkeeper David Marshall at half-time with a hip injury – were still more threatening going forward.

Anya went close again with a curling effort, before the 25-year-old broke the deadlock in the 59th minute, racing on to a through ball from Brown.

Anya’s shot had to be perfect, given the angle, and that it was, as his first-time finish nestled into the far corner.

Macedonia pressed for an equaliser, with substitute goalkeeper Matt Gilks making good saves to deny Aleksandar Trajkovski and Pandev as the hosts gathered momentum.

And they were lucky to have a penalty appeal turned down when Pandev fell under the attention of Brown.

Macedonia’s pressure eventually told, as Pandev chipped a wonderful through-ball into the path of Kostovski, who finished well past Gilks.

But just as the hosts thought they had won a point, Scotland grabbed a dramatic late winner.

Maloney was the scorer, curling a brilliant free-kick into the top corner to give Scotland a deserved victory.

FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Luxembourg 3 Northern Ireland 2

10 September 2013 22:23

Mathias Jaenisch’s late goal secured Luxembourg their first win of FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying with a 3-2 victory over Northern Ireland.

Jaenisch pounced in the 87th minute after some hesitant defending from the visitors as Luxembourg battled from a goal down to edge a five-goal thriller in a match between two sides who have no chance of reaching Brazil next year.

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining encounter as Martin Paterson’s third goal in his last five Northern Ireland games handed the visitors the lead before Aurelien Joachim scored in his third successive international outing to level.

Stefano Bensi put Luxembourg in front for the first time with 12 minutes left only for Gareth McAuley to equalise. Jaenisch then sealed victory for Luxembourg with a close-range finish in Group F.

Mario Mutsch returned from suspension and was drafted straight back into a Luxembourg side that shipped 17 goals in seven qualifiers prior to Northern Ireland’s visit.

Northern Ireland were without the banned duo of Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt, both sent off in Friday’s 4-2 defeat against Portugal, with Burnley defender Daniel Lafferty replacing the latter in the starting line-up.

Lars Gerson stooped to head over a ninth-minute corner as the home side produced an encouraging start that was halted five minutes later by a moment of magic from Paterson.

The Huddersfield Town striker controlled Shane Ferguson’s pass with a first touch that took him clear of his marker just outside the penalty area before rifling low into the bottom corner with a rasping finish.

Mutsch powered wide from a free-kick routine after 25 minutes as Luxembourg looked for an equaliser and Gerson struck the crossbar with a curling effort, although the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.

Roy Carroll palmed away Bensi’s strike after he cut in from the left flank, but the Olympiacos goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Luxembourg from hauling themselves level in added time at the end of the first half.

The hosts broke quickly, David Turpel eventually picking up possession in the centre circle before splitting the Northern Ireland defence with a pass that Joachim latched on to.

Joachim’s shot struck Daniel Lafferty and looped over Carroll with virtually the last kick of the half.

Clearly energised following Joachim’s fortuitous goal, Luxembourg started the second half strongly, Bensi crashing a free-kick from in the Northern Ireland area inches wide after Carroll has been penalised for a pass back from McAuley.

Substitute Billy McKay squandered a gilt-edged chance to put the visitors ahead with 22 minutes remaining.

A Paterson backheel allowed McKay to scamper in on goal and his first touch took him away from the onrushing keeper, but he stumbled and blazed over from six yards.

That miss proved decisive as Bensi edged Luxembourg ahead after 78 minutes. The Northern Ireland defence afforded the striker too much time and space 20 yards out and he duly dispatched an unstoppable effort across Carroll into his bottom-right corner.

Four minutes later, though, Northern Ireland drew level as McAuley rose well to meet Oliver Norwood’s free-kick and he powered a header that bounced past Jonathan Joubert.

But there was still time for more late drama as Jaenisch prodded home from close range with three minutes of normal time remaining after the Northern Ireland defenders failed to clear a corner.

FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Andorra 0 Netherlands 2

10 September 2013 22:18

Netherlands became the first European team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 win in Andorra on Tuesday.

Andorra have never scored against the Dutch, but belied their minnow status with a committed first-half display, coming in at the break goalless.

But Robin van Persie dragged his team to Brazil 2014 with two goals in four second-half minutes that, coupled with Romania’s defeat at home to Turkey, sealed their spot at the top of Group D.

Louis van Gaal made just two changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Estonia on Friday as Ron Vlaar and Ruben Schaken replaced Bruno Martins and Arjen Robben.

For the hosts, midfielder Marcio Vieira made his 50th international appearance.

Wesley Sneijder looked to catch home goalkeeper Ferran Pol out of position with a fourth-minute free-kick, but his effort from 30 yards just bobbled wide.

The hosts acquitted themselves well, however, with Marc Pujol curling a free-kick wide of Michel Vorm’s goal, and then floating another dangerous set-piece into the penalty area, which was flicked just wide by Andorra’s record goalscorer Aldefons Lima, who missed out on his eighth international strike.

Netherlands dominated possession, but they could not carve open a stubborn Andorra defence with regularity.

Sneijder was heavily involved, drilling a low effort straight at Pol before heading Daryl Janmaat’s cross just wide.

Ivan Lorenzo troubled Vorm just after the half hour with a low drive that the Swansea City man spilled, but recovered to grab with Pujol set to pounce.

Soon after, Van Persie flashed a free-kick wide of goal and the Dutch continued to be frustrated, as the sides went in at the break level.

Possibly with strong words from Van Gaal ringing in their ears, the Dutch came out after the break with a renewed purpose, and they finally took the lead five minutes into the half.

Kevin Strootman drifted onto the right flank before cutting the ball to Van Persie on the edge of the box and the Manchester United man curled a sumptuous effort beyond Pol.

Netherlands doubled their advantage just four minutes later, again through Van Persie, who pounced after Janmaat’s cross had been poorly parried into the six-yard box by the home keeper.

Van Persie’s tail was up and he went in search of the match ball, but sliced a right-footed effort wide after 67 minutes before heading Schaken’s centre wide shortly after.

However, he was unable to add to his tally and Netherlands cruised to a victory that now allows them to make plans for Brazil.

International Friendly: Spain 2 Chile 2

10 September 2013 22:00

Jesus Navas climbed off the bench to rescue a 2-2 draw for Spain against Chile in Geneva on Tuesday.

The Manchester City winger salvaged a scarcely deserved draw in Vicente del Bosque’s 80th game in charge, sliding home the leveller from close range in injury time.

Eduardo Vargas twice gave Chile the lead, sandwiching Roberto Soldado’s close-range header in a first half dominated by the South Americans.

The performance underlined the threat that Jorge Sampaoli’s men could carry at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which they are on the brink of qualifying for following their 3-0 victory over Venezuela on Saturday.

But they really should have claimed the win, having controlled large parts of the contest.

Del Bosque made a host of changes from the side that beat Finland 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.

He was without Isco (ankle) and David Silva (thigh), while Victor Valdes was given the nod in goal ahead of Iker Casillas, who earned his 150th cap in Helsinki.

Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla and Soldado were also brought in to the starting line-up.

Chile named all three goalscorers from the Venezuela match as Vargas, Marcos Gonzalez and Arturo Vidal lined up in a strong starting XI.

The visitors seized the early initiative when Vargas latched onto Mauricio Isla’s flicked pass before slotting the ball past Valdes from 12 yards.

Spain were exposed at the back again midway through the half, when Valdes had to scramble Alexis Sanchez’s cross-cum-shot behind for a corner.

Claudio Bravo almost cost his side at the other end when the goalkeeper allowed a tame backpass to roll under his foot and out for a corner, from which Spain failed to threaten.

Despite struggling to find their rhythm, Spain did manage to conjure a leveller nine minutes before the break.

Tottenham striker Soldado was the beneficiary of Alvaro Arbeloa’s pinpoint delivery, heading home from six yards for a barely deserved equaliser.

But after Cesc Fabregas’ cross hit the post, Spain were cut open again on the stroke of half-time.

Vargas turned Raul Albiol and finished into the bottom corner to send Sampaoli’s men into the break with the lead.

Andres Iniesta and Navas were brought on for Fabregas and Xavi as Spain looked to turn things around, having looked nothing like the side that had managed five clean sheets in their past six matches.

They began to grow into the game, enjoying long spells of possession as Chile seemed content to try to contain them.

Cazorla fed Pedro down the down the left but his cross deflected off Gary Medel, giving Soldado no chance to capitalise.

Valdes was replaced around the hour mark, making way for Pepe Reina, who was called into action when Isla raced through and the Napoli loanee had to sprint out to deny him.

Del Bosque introduced Alvaro Negredo to the action in place of Soldado and the Spaniards pressed again, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box as Cazorla was sent tumbling, resulting in a yellow card for Vidal.

But Iniesta’s strike was straight at the wall and when Navas could only sting Bravo’s palms with a close-range strike, Spain’s frustration was evident.

With their illustrious opponents failing to fire on all cylinders, Chile looked set to record their first win over Spain, but Navas had other ideas, poking Pedro’s cross home from close range to ensure that the world and European champions have lost only one of their last 30 matches.