By Ross Crae


Wales get a Bale-out

In Group A Scotland faced fellow home nation Wales. James Morrison’s Premier League form has made singer/songwriter puns in round-ups commonplace, and it was he who opened the scoring. Wales had a claim for a penalty in the second half as Christophe Berra wrestled Craig Davies to the ground in the box but the German referee, who to be fair looked mentally unhinged, waved away protests.

Steven Fletcher had the ball in the net but the ball in from Charlie Adam was adjudged to have swerved out of play, despite replays suggesting otherwise.

Wales got an equaliser, Gareth Bale allegedly fouled by Shaun Maloney in the box and the Welsh winger stepped up to score from the spot. It looked like there was minimal contact between the Welshman and the Wigan winger and that Bale had in fact tripped over himself. All rather unfortunate.

Bale was the villain for the Tartan Army but became a hero for Wales. Sloppy defending from Charlie Adam allowed Bale to run at the Scotland defence and unleash a stunning left foot shot into the top corner which won the game for the home side.

Scotland’s hopes of qualification look to have dropped faster than Bale in the box and the calls for Craig Levein to go are almost ferocious screams.

Elsewhere in the group, Belgium won 3-0 in Serbia. Christian Benteke gave Belgium the lead in the first half, with second half goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Kevin Mirallas sending the Belgians to the top of Group A. Macedonia lost 2-1 at home to Croatia, Agim Ibraimi opening the scoring but goals from Verdan Corluka and Ivan Rakitic earned Croatia the victory.

Over in Group B, the Czech Republic eased to a 3-1 victory over Malta with another Tartan Army villain, Jan Rezek, amongst the goalscorers.  Italy won by the same scoreline against Armenia, an early Andrea Pirlo penalty was cancelled out by a strike from Shakhtar midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Despite a spirited display from the Armenians, second half goals from Daniele de Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo sealed the victory for the Azzurri. Bulgaria and Denmark drew 1-1.

Great hair.

To Group C, where  Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland side had a miserable night in Dublin as visitors Germany hammered them 6-1. Jumpers for Goalposts darling Marco Reus scored twice in the first half, putting the Germans firmly in control of the tie. A second half Mesut Ozil penalty followed by Miroslav Klose’s 65th international goal and a Toni Kroos double made it embarrassing for Trap’s men, but fear not – Andy Keogh scored a last minute consolation. The Germans totally outclassed and outplayed the Irish, cutting through their defence time and time again with the precision and intensity of a blow-torch.

Also in the group, Kazakhstan held Austria to a 0-0 draw and Sweden came from behind against everyone’s favourite minnows the Faroe Islands. The Faroes took the lead when Rógvi Baldvinsson, who spent a grand total of two weeks at Bristol Rovers in July, opened the scoring. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes, Fulham’s Alex Kacaniklic scored his first goal for Sweden before the mighty Zlatan spared the Swedes’ blushes.

Holland ran out 3-0 winners against Andorra in Group D. Rafael van der Vaart and Klass Jan Huntelaar scored early goals, and Ruben Schaken added the third early in the second half. It was an easy game for the Dutch who were never troubled by the Andorrans. They’re good when they’re not all bickering. Also in the group, Turkey lost 1-0 at home to Romania and Hungary were 1-0 victors in Estonia.

In Group E Albania lost 2-1 at home to Kerry Katona’s Iceland, Slovenia ended with 10 men but a 2-1 win against Cyprus and Switzerland and Norway drew 1-1.

Aleksandr goes Ker-azy

A titanic tussle in Group F was settled by an early Aleksandr Kerzakhov goal as Fabio Capello’s Russia beat visiting Portugal 1-0. Cristiano will be sad tonight, as despite Portugal’s attacking strength the Russian defence managed to hold strong and keep them out. Poor old Luxembourg were on the wrong end of a 6-0 hiding from Israel and missed from the spot to make them feel sad too. Mallorca striker Tomer Hemed helped himself to a hat-trick, clearly having no regards for the feelings of the small nation.

The Great Group G saw Liechtenstein lost 2-0 at home to Lithuania, FC Rostov’s Edgaras Česnauskis with both goals. He’ll be happier tonight than he was when he found out David Bentley was going to be his teammate. Greece and Bosnia provided a bore-fest with a 0-0 draw and Slovakia beat Latvia 2-1. All fun and games.

Musical statues proves popular at Wembley

In Group H, England faced the major world football force San Marino. Once the usual “oh the population of San Marino could fit in Wembley” and “ha, these players all have jobs that aren’t being a footballer ha!” punditry was over, Uncle Roy’s men predictably cruised to a 5-0 win.

It did take Eng-er-land 35 whole minutes to take the lead, captain for the night Wayne Rooney netting from the penalty spot. Danny Welbeck added a second within minutes with a cheeky back-heeled finish. Both scored again in the second half, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completed a routine victory.

Elsewhere in Group H, plucky Moldova held Ukraine to a goalless draw. Good for them.

Group I is where the Champions lie, and Spain took all 3 points from Belarus with an impressive 4-0 victory. At least we think they did, it wasn’t on Spanish telly. Jordi Alba possibly scored the first goal and perhaps Pedro scored a hat-trick for the World and European champs to maybe win the game.

Also in Group I, former Kilmarnock string puller Alexei Eremenko was sent off in Finland’s 1-1 draw with Georgia. Silly boy.