The third and final wave of European World Cup matchweek 2 qualifiers took place on Saturday night, with mixed fortunes for the three Home Nations involved.
To Group C first, where the reigning champions Germany were in action at home to the Czech Republic. Jogi Löw’s side got through this fixture completely unscathed, as a double from Thomas Müller, with an effort from Toni Kroos sandwiched in between, giving Germany all three points in a routine 3-0 victory.
Northern Ireland continued their run of good form by beating San Marino 4-0, but the match was a little less comfortable than that result would suggest. Steven Davis had Michael O’Neill’s side 1-0 up from the 26th minute, and with the away team going down to ten men early into the second half, three goals – courtesy of two from Kyle Lafferty and one from Jamie Ward – in the last eleven minutes made the scoreline look that bit more comprehensive.
In the group’s other game, Azerbaijan pulled off a surprise by winning 1-0 at home to Norway, Maksim Medvedyev scoring the winner after 11 minutes.
To Group E, where group favourites Poland saw of a late fightback from Denmark to record their first win of the campaign. A Robert Lewandowski hat-trick set the home side well on their way to victory, but two goals from Denmark – an own goal from Kamil Glik and a further effort from Yussuf Poulsen – gave the scoreline a far more respectable look of 3-2.
Elsewhere, a red card for Armenia and three goals for Romania – all within the first 12 minutes – ended the tie as a contest remarkably early on. Bogdan Stancu, Adrian Popa, Razvan Marin, Nicolae Stanciu and Alexandru Chipciu all netted in a comfortable 5-0 win.
5-0 was also the scoreline in the game between Montenegro and Kazakhstan – Zarko Tomasevic, Nikola Vukcevic, Stevan Jovetic, Fatos Beciraj and Stefan Savic all scoring for the home side.
In Group F, England enjoyed an easy match at home to Malta (even if the scoreline didn’t reflect this) – Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli scoring in a 2-0 win.
Slovenia, England’s next opponents, saw off Slovakia with a 1-0 win in an even contest – Rok Kronaveter getting the winner with around fifteen minutes remaining.
However, the big drama came at Hampden Park. Scotland found themselves 1-0 down at home to Lithuania with Fiodor Cernych scoring just before the hour mark. With the game heading for its climax and Gordon Strachan’s side snatched a late equaliser courtesy of a James McArthur header in the last minute of normal time to secure a 1-1 draw.