World Cup qualifiers round-up: Portugal lose, France held

Date published: Wednesday 7th September 2016 8:39

France

European champions Portugal suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Switzerland in their opening 2018 World Cup Group B qualifier.

Breel Embolo headed the Swiss in front at St Jakob-Park after 24 minutes, before Admir Mehmedi fired in a second on the half-hour.

Fernando Santos’ side – missing star man Cristiano Ronaldo who has just returned to training with Real Madrid after limping out of the Euro 2016 final because of a knee injury – failed to mount a recovery as Nani saw a header come back off the post.

Switzerland finished the match with 10 men when in stoppage time, Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka collected a second caution.

France, meanwhile, were left frustrated following a goalless draw from their opening Group A match in Belarus.

Les Bleus, beaten finalists as hosts of Euro 2016, had plenty of possession, but even Manchester United’s £89million man Paul Pogba could not find a way past the home defence.

In Group H, a brace from Everton forward Romelu Lukaku helped secure a 3-0 win in Cyprus for new Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.

The former Toffees boss saw his side beaten by Spain in Brussels last week, but the Red Devils delivered the required performance in Nicosia.

Lukaku, who played for Martinez at Goodison Park, put the visitors in front on 14 minutes with a diving header and produced another close-range finish to nod in a second on the hour.

Yannick Carrasco slotted in a third with nine minutes left, converting a pass from Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard.

It could have been 4-0 in stoppage time, but new Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi saw his penalty saved after Hazard had been fouled.

Sweden started life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a 1-1 draw against Holland in their Group A match at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Holland had dominated large spells of the first half, but found themselves behind on 43 minutes when Marcus Berg chipped in from the edge of the box.

The Dutch levelled on 67 minutes when captain Wesley Sneijder slotted in after Daryl Janmaat’s shot was saved – and thought they had won it in stoppage time with a header from substitute Bas Dost, which was ruled out for what looked minimal contact with the defender.

Elsewhere in Group A, Bulgaria snatched a dramatic 4-3 win over Luxembourg in Sofia, where there were two goals in stoppage time including last-gasp decider from Aleksandar Tonev.

Just prior to Tonev’s goal, Florian Bohnert looked to have earned the minnows a shock draw when he made it 3-3 after a topsy-turvy encounter.

Bulgaria went ahead through Dimitar Rangelov on 16 minutes, but Aurelien Joachim’s quickfire brace saw the hosts trailing before strikes Marcelinho (66) and a free-kick by Ivelin Popov (80) put them back in front.

Bohnert’s stoppage-time leveller seemed to have salvaged a point for Luxembourg, only for Tonev to spark wild celebrations from the home supporters.

Bosnia-Herzegovina got their Group H campaign off to a winning start with a comfortable 5-0 win over Estonia in Zenica.

Emir Spahic (seven) headed the hosts in front, with Roma striker Edin Dzeko (22) adding a second from the penalty spot.

Further goals from Haris Medunjanin (71), Vedad Ibisevic (83) and a second by Spahic in stoppage time completed the rout.

Gibraltar scored an historic first goal in a World Cup qualifier, but were well beaten 4-1 by Greece at Estadio Algarve.

Kostas Mitroglou (10) put Greece ahead, before Liam Walker, who once had a spell at English club Portsmouth, equalised in the 25th minute.

However, it was not long before the Greeks regained control, as Scunthorpe defender Scott Wiseman (43) put through his own net.

Greece extended their lead with two more quick goals before half-time through Kostas Fortounis and Vassilis Torosidis.

In Tuesday night’s other Group B fixtures, Latvia won 1-0 in Andorra with a header from Valerijs Sabala at the start of the second half, while the Faroe Islands held Hungary to a goalless draw in Torshavn.

Albania snatched a late 2-1 win over Macedonia as they resumed the Group G qualifier which was abandoned due to torrential rain in Shkoder on Monday.

As the teams played out the final quarter-of-an-hour, the scores level at 1-1, Bekim Balaj netted with just one minute left when he glanced in from a free-kick to secure all three points for the hosts.

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