Spain beat France 1-0 to move to the top of its group in qualifying for soccer’s 2014 World Cup, while Montenegro rallied for a 1-1 draw with England.
Pedro Rodriguez scored for Spain last night in Paris. The victory gives the world and European champion 11 points in Group I, one more than France.
Dejan Damjanovic’s goal with 14 minutes left canceled out a first-half score from Wayne Rooney to earn Montenegro the home draw. The victory keeps Montenegro two points ahead of England in Group H with four qualifying matches left.
“We stopped playing and away from home you can’t afford to do that,” England captain Steven Gerrard told ITV. “At 1-0, you’re always vulnerable. You have to get that second goal and we didn’t do that.”
The Netherlands remained perfect in qualifying, while Germany and Italy won to increase their group leads. The winners of 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.
Spain rebounded from a surprising 1-1 home draw with Finland five days ago to extend its unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 50 matches.
Spain’s Xavi Hernandez put a shot from six yards over the crossbar early in game, while Franck Ribery had France’s best chance of the half stopped by Victor Valdes.
The Spanish broke through in the 58th minute as Nacho Monreal sent a pass into the area which Pedro Rodriguez directed toward goal. Hugo Lloris was able to get a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it from crossing the line.
France would finish with 10 men after Paul Pogba picked up his second yellow card with 12 minutes left.
England came close to scoring after three minutes as Rooney saw Montenegro goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic off his line and chipped over him from the edge of the area. While the shot hit the far post and bounced away, the Manchester United striker didn’t miss three minutes later as he headed in Gerrard’s corner kick.
Montenegro took control in the second half as Stevan Jovetic headed into the side of the net and also shot wide. Joleon Lescott’s headed clearance then fell to Mirko Vucinic, who shot over from 10 yards out.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart had to scramble to gather an effort from Vicinic, who also curled a shot wide with about 18 minutes remaining. Hart was forced to dive to stop a shot from Jovetic.
Montenegro got the tying goal in the 76th minute as Damjanovic’s header off a corner was stopped by Hart. Two follow-up attempts were blocked by Danny Welbeck before Damjanovic put a rebound past Hart.
Bozovic caught a volley from Gerrard in the final minute, then knocked away a free kick from the England captain in stoppage time to preserve Montenegro’s group lead.
“We’re still confident we can finish top of the group,” Gerrard said. “We need to win all our games. We certainly need to improve on that second-half performance.”
Montenegro has 14 points and England has 12. Poland, which beat San Marino 5-0, and Ukraine, a 2-1 winner over Moldova, are tied for third with eight points.
Robin van Persie scored twice as the Netherlands beat Romania 4-0 for its sixth straight win in Group D. The Dutch are seven points ahead of Hungary, which drew 1-1 with Turkey. Estonia beat winless Andorra 2-0 in the group’s other match.
Three goals in eight first-half minutes sent Germany to a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan. The Germans lead Austria and Ireland, which drew 2-2, and Sweden, which didn’t play, by eight points in Group C.
Mario Balotelli scored twice as Italy beat Malta 2-0 to move three points clear of Bulgaria, which drew 1-1 in Denmark, in Group B. The Czech Republic moved into third, five points back, with a 3-0 win over Armenia.
Croatia scored twice in the final 13 minutes to beat Wales 2-1 and stay tied with Belgium, which beat Macedonia 1-0, for the Group A lead with 16 points. Serbia beat Scotland 2-0.
Israel and Portugal both won to move within a point of Russia, which has played two fewer games, in Group F.
Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeda scored after Rauf Aliyev was sent off for a second yellow card in the second half as Portugal beat Azerbaijan 2-0, while Israel scored twice after the 77th minute to win at Northern Ireland by the same score.
The next round of qualifying matches in Europe will be played June 7.