GERMANY eased past Kazakhstan 3-0 last night without deploying any strikers for the first time in a competitive match under coach Joachim Loew as they stayed top of Group C.
Two goals in two minutes midway through the first half from midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Goetze, playing in a forward role, quickly put the Germans in control and dashed any faint hopes for the hosts.
Thomas Mueller grabbed Germany’s third goal in the 74th minute in a lacklustre second half after the home side attempted a brief comeback and even hit the bar.
In Group F, Portugal came back from 3-1 down to snatch a draw in stoppage time against Israel, a result that keeps both teams in with a chance of qualifying.
The visitors stunned Israel and silenced the 40,000 capacity crowd with a goal in the second minute, but the home side got back level in the 24th minute through Tomer Hemed and forged a promising lead with goals by Eden Ben Bassat in the 40th minute and Rami Gershon in the 70th. But a determined effort by Cristiano Ronaldo, who powered into the Israeli area, set up Helder Postiga to reduce the arrears to 3-2 in the 72nd minute and the equaliser was scored by Fabio Contrao as the visitors laid siege to the Israeli goal.
Alexander Tonev’s hat-trick helped Bulgaria rout Malta 6-0 in Group B in a match played behind closed doors because of racist incidents in a previous 2014 World Cup qualifier.
Despite freezing, windy conditions, Bulgaria produced an inspired display of attacking football at the Vasil Levski national stadium to remain unbeaten.
Tonev put the home side in front with a diagonal shot – his first international goal – after five minutes. Tonev enjoyed a slice of luck for his second goal seven minutes before the break, his long-range effort appearing to pose little threat to Andrew Hogg, but the Malta keeper allowed the ball to slip through his hands.
Captain Ivelin Popov made it 3-0 with an easy finish with Georgi Milanov, who became Bulgaria’s youngest Footballer of the Year in December, providing a clever assist from the left wing two minutes after half-time.
Soon after, lively Emil Gargorov also managed to get his name on the scoresheet following a defensive mix-up and Tonev completed his hat-trick with another delightful shot from outside the penalty area. Defender Ivan Ivanov added a sixth goal 12 minutes from time.
The game was played without spectators after FIFA punished Bulgaria following incidents during October’s qualifier against Denmark in Sofia, when a group of fans racially abused Denmark’s Patrick Mtiliga.
In Group E, Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson scored both goals to sink Slovenia 2-1 and keep Iceland’s hopes of World Cup qualification alive.
Sigurdsson cancelled out Milivoje Novakovic’s opener with a 55th-minute free-kick, and then lashed home the winner 12 minutes from time after being played in by former Chelsea veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen.