Spain Opens World Cup Defense With Win in Georgia; England Ties

Defending champion Spain needed a late goal to beat Georgia 1-0 in its opening game in European qualifying for the 2014 soccer World Cup, while England rallied to tie Ukraine 1-1.

Germany, the Netherlands and France were among nine teams winning their second straight games last night. The top teams from each of the nine European groups qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, with the best eight runners-up going into a playoff for the remaining four slots.

World champion Spain dominated possession in its Group I game in Tbilisi without scoring until Roberto Soldado turned in Cesc Fabregas’s cross after a short corner in the 86th minute.

“It was a win that we really worked hard for and against a team who allowed us to have the ball in order to concentrate on defending their own area,” Soldado said in comments on UEFA’s website. “We had very few chances to score, but the important thing is that we did so in the end.”

Spain extended its unbeaten run to 14 matches, which includes winning its second straight European Championship in July. France tops Group I with six points after a 3-1 win over Belarus in Paris on goals from Etienne Capoue, Christophe Jallet and Franck Ribery.

Frank Lampard scored with a 87th-minute penalty kick to give 10-man England the home draw at London’s Wembley Stadium.

“At the start of the game you obviously want to win it but when you consider the circumstances -- we had a goal disallowed and we hit the post -- so in the end we showed great character to get a point,” Lampard told ITV.

Disallowed Goal

Jermain Defoe’s goal was disallowed in the 10th minute when referee Cuneyt Cakir ruled the Tottenham striker fouled Andriy Yarmolenko before shooting. Tom Cleverley then missed from close range in the 35th minute.

Ukraine took the lead four minutes later as Yevhan Konopolyanka fired a 25-yard (22-meter) shot into the top right corner. Cleverley had two more chances before halftime, firing one shot wide and hitting the outside of the post with another.

Glen Johnson forced a diving save from Andriy Pyatov in the second half and Danny Welbeck, who came on for Manchester United teammate Cleverley, hit the outside of the post.

Lampard then scored from the spot after Yevhen Khacheridi handled the ball in the area. England captain Steven Gerrard was sent off a minute later after receiving his second yellow card for a lunging challenge on Denys Garmash.

The draw leaves England tied with Montenegro and Poland in Group H with four points. Montenegro rolled to a 6-0 win at San Marino, while Poland beat Moldova 2-0.

“I’m happy we came out with something because had we lost the game it would have been very harsh on us,” England manager Roy Hodgson told ITV.

Germany Wins

Germany won 2-1 in Austria to take the lead in Group C, while Sweden beat Kazakhstan 2-0 for its first win. The Netherlands beat Hungary 4-1 and Romania defeated Andorra 4-0 for their second straight wins in Group D, and Turkey defeated Estonia 3-0.

Italy rebounded from an opening draw for a 2-0 win over Malta and is tied atop Group B with Bulgaria, which beat Armenia 1-0. Switzerland has the maximum six points in Group E after beating Albania 2-0, while Cyprus defeated Iceland 1-0 and Norway topped Slovenia 2-1.

Russia and Portugal are atop Group F after easy wins. Russia won 4-0 in Israel and Portugal was a 3-0 home winner over Azerbaijan, while Northern Ireland and Luxembourg tied 1-1.

Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Latvia 4-1 and Greece topped Lithuania 2-0 to leave both with six points in Group G. Slovakia defeated Liechtenstein 2-0.

In Group A, Serbia routed Wales 6-1 and is tied with Belgium and Croatia, who played out a 1-1 draw, on four points. Scotland and Macedonia also tied 1-1.

The third round of European qualifying games will be played Oct. 12.

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