England beat Moldova 4-0 to take the lead in its qualifying group for the 2014 soccer World Cup, and a record-tying goal from Miroslav Klose helped Germany defeat Austria 3-0.
Danny Welbeck scored twice as England moved to the top of Group H on goal difference over Montenegro, which drew 1-1 last night at Poland. Klose tied the German national team goal record by netting his 68th in Munich.
European and world champion Spain, Italy and Portugal all won to increase their group leads, while Estonia ended the Netherlands’ perfect qualifying run.
The winner of each of the nine European groups qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with the best eight runners-up going into a playoff for the remaining four slots.
England took the lead in the 12th minute at Wembley Stadium in London when Steven Gerrard scored with a low shot from the edge of the area. Rickie Lambert, who scored in his England debut against Scotland last month, struck again 15 minutes later by heading in the rebound after Stanislav Namasco stopped Theo Walcott.
Welbeck ran onto a pass from Lambert and slid a shot past Namasco in first-half stoppage time to make it 3-0. The Manchester United striker added his second goal five minutes after the break off another pass from Lambert.
England and Montenegro have 15 points in Group H, with England holding a goal difference lead of 15. Ukraine has 14 points after a 9-0 rout of San Marino and will host England in the next round of games in three days.
Germany extended its lead in Group C to five points with the home win as Klose tied Gerd Muller’s national team record in the first half. Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller then added goals in the second half.
Sweden beat Ireland 2-1 in Dublin to move into second place ahead of Austria, while Kazakhstan beat the winless Faroe Islands 2-1 for its first victory.
Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo scored in Spain’s 2-0 win in Finland. Spain now leads by three points in Group I over France, which played to a scoreless draw in Georgia.
Robin van Persie scored with a stoppage-time penalty kick to give the Netherlands a 2-2 draw in Estonia. The Dutch, who had started qualifying with six straight wins, still lead Group D with 19 points, six more than Romania, which beat Hungary 3-0. Turkey routed Andorra 5-0 in the other group match.
Italy moved closer to qualification from Group B by beating Bulgaria 1-0 on a goal from Alberto Gilardino. Italy has 17 points, seven more than Bulgaria. Armenia beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to leave both teams tied for third place with Denmark, which also won 2-1 at Malta.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored three goals in the final 22 minutes to lead Portugal past Northern Ireland 4-2. Helder Postiga received a red card for Portugal, while Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt were sent off for Northern Ireland.
The victory keeps Portugal two points ahead of Russia, which beat Luxembourg 4-0, in Group F.
Belgium increased its lead over Croatia to five points in Group A with a 2-0 win in Scotland, while Croatia drew 1-1 in Serbia and Macedonia beat Wales 2-1.
Group E leader Switzerland blew a three-goal lead in drawing at home with Iceland 4-4. The Swiss still top Group E with 15 points, four more than Norway, which beat Cyprus 2-0, as Slovenia defeated Albania 1-0
Bosnia-Herzegovina lost 1-0 to Slovakia but still leads Group G on goal difference over Greece, which won 1-0 in Liechtenstein, with both teams on 16 points. Latvia beat Lithuania 2-1.