Veteran strikers turn back time to boost European big guns on fifa15guide


THE DAY REPLAYED – It often seems that international teams are in a constant state of renewal, as experienced stalwarts give way to the latest wunderkinds. But now and again veterans get a second chance to show what they can do, as England’s Jermain Defoe and Germany’s Mario Gomez did with aplomb during the latest round of European qualifying matches for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. runs the rule over all of Sunday’s qualifying action. 

Group C: Azerbaijan 1-4 Germany, San Marino 0-6 Czech Republic, Northern Ireland 2-0 Norway
Group E: Armenia 2-0 Kazakhstan, Montenegro 1-2 Poland, Romania 0-0 Denmark
Group F: England 2-0 Lithuania, Malta 1-3 Slovakia, Scotland 1-0 Slovenia 

Match of the day
Montenegro 1-2 Poland
First travelled to second in Group E, and leaders Poland took the lead through their star forward and captain, Robert Lewandowski, who fired home a gem of a free-kick. In the second half, Montenegro stepped up the pressure and found a deserved equaliser via Stefan Mugosa, much to the delight of the home crowd. It wasn’t to be for the Hrabri Sokoli, however, as the experienced Lukasz Piszczek lobbed a crucial winner for the Poles eight minutes from time.

In Group C, world champions Germany took another step towards defending their title in Russia next year by outclassing a plucky Azerbaijan side 4-1. Mario Gomez, who was not included in Die Nationalelf’s squad for Brazil 2014 and who was not even certain to travel to UEFA EURO 2016 (although Joachim Low eventually took him to France), once again proved his worth to his country, heading home the third goal in Baku. Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller, who have had inconsistent seasons at club level, gave themselves a confidence boost by also getting on the scoresheet. 

Two of the Czech Republic’s three largest-ever wins have come against San Marino: 7-0, in 2006, and then again in 2009. On Sunday, the Czechs came close to equalling that scoreline, but in the end they had to be content with a 6-0 victory. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, snatched the lead versus Norway in the second minute through Jamie Ward. Conor Washington’s goal sealed a 2-0 success, which enabled Michael O’Neill’s men to retain second spot in the section.



Back in Group E, Armenia defeated Kazakhstan 2-0 in Yerevan, their captain and high-profile playmaker Henrik Mkhitaryan scoring the opening goal of a win that keeps his country in a four-way race for second place behind frontrunners Poland. Two of the other teams vying for that runners-up slot, Romania and Denmark, drew 0-0.

Now 34, and three and a half years after his last international match, Jermain Defoe showed that he still has something to offer at this level, finding the net in the 22nd minute of England’s comfortable 2-0 win over Lithuania. The Three Lions, who are still to concede a goal in Group F, thereby preserved their significant lead at the top, ahead of Slovakia, who came away from Malta with three points, and Slovenia, who were beaten late on by a resurgent Scotland.

Player of the day
If recent events are anything to go by, playing in Turin can do wonders for a goalkeeping career. After Juventus No1 Gianluigi Buffon celebrated his 1,000th professional match, his Torino counterpart Joe Hart had his own moment in the sun. Hart’s clean sheet against Lithuania enabled England to become the only team in World Cup qualifying, all confederations combined, not to have let in a single goal. Remarkably, the English goal has not been breached for a total of 450 minutes.

The stat
4 – Against Northern Ireland, Norway fell to their fourth defeat in five qualifying matches, and are now highly likely to miss out on Russia 2018. Having finished top of their qualifying groups for USA 1994 and France 1998, the Scandinavians subsequently missed out on the four World Cups that followed, and will probably have to wait another four years to gain another chance of returning to the global stage. 

Did you know?
If England are now the only team not to have conceded a goal thus far, it is down to Germany having to pick the ball out of their own net for the first time during this qualifying campaign. It was the sprightly Dimitrij Nazarov who managed to pick the lock of the German defence, a feat he is likely to boast about when his returns to his club, 2. Bundesliga outfit Erzgebirge Aue. In fact, the Azerbaijani front man has played his football in Germany since 2009.

What they said
“We allowed them into the match a lot more than we should have. We were a little bit arrogant – I don’t think that’s a good thing. That made the game much more difficult than it needed to be,” Germany defender Mats Hummels.

EVERTON: Lukaku downs WBA –

Everton matched their Premier League points tally from last season after easing to victory over West Brom.

Romelu Lukaku's 19th Premier League goal of the season helped Everton beat West Brom 3-0 on Saturday in a win which saw them match their total points tally of 47 from last season, highlighting their marked improvement under Ronald Koeman.

Everton's display emphasised their increased solidity in defence since Roberto Martinez's departure, while there were no signs of that negatively impacting their effectiveness going forward as they equalled last season's record despite having 10 more games to play.

It did take them a little longer than they would have liked to open the scoring, but a brilliant six-minute spell at the end of the first half had Everton well on course to wrapping up a comfortable win, finally making the most of their superiority over a West Brom team which showed little attacking intent.

Kevin Mirallas got the first in the 39th minute, reacting quickest in the area before tucking away, with Morgan Schneiderlin then rounding off a fine first half with his first goal for the club.

West Brom enjoyed a little more time on the front foot after the interval, but they never had Everton looking particularly uncomfortable.

And ultimately Everton sauntered to victory, as Lukaku struck late on to overtake his previous Premier League best of 18 goals in a single season to spoil Tony Pulis' 300th Premier League match as a manager.

Even from the early exchanges it looked set to be a long day for West Brom, as Everton started brightly and put their visitors under considerable pressure, though it took them 16 minutes to craft the match's first chance.

Gareth Barry tussled with Jake Livermore on the edge of the box and came out on top, before feeding Lukaku and he dragged a right-footed effort agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.

Lukaku went close again just before the half-hour mark, escaping Jonny Evans in the area and heading off target after a great left-wing delivery from Leighton Baines.

But Everton finally found their range in the 39th minute.

Ben Foster failed to hold on to Ross Barkley's 20-yard effort and Mirallas was there to pounce, smashing home from close range.

And Schneiderlin doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time – prodding past Foster after latching on to Lukaku's precise reverse pass.

Sensing they had already wrapped things up, Everton looked to invite West Brom pressure early in the second half.

And the visitors did at least get a shot on goal six minutes after the break, but Joel Robles pushed away Nacer Chadli's 25-yard effort with relative ease.

Everton continued to look the more inventive in attack, though, and Barkley worried them just after the hour mark, shrugging off Gareth McAuley and rifling into the side-netting inside the area.

West Brom were finally finished off eight minutes from time – Lukaku rising to meet Barkley's cross and heading beyond the helpless Foster.

It almost got even worse for West Brom in stoppage time, but Idrissa Gueye's 20-yard strike came back off the right-hand post.

Key Opta stats:
– Everton have won five consecutive Premier League home games for the first time since April 2014 (a run of seven).
– West Brom haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet on the road since the first game of the season at Crystal Palace, conceding in each of their last 13.
– Romelu Lukaku has been involved in 24 Premier League goals this season (19 goals, 5 assists) – only Alexis Sanchez has been involved in more (26).
– Ross Barkley has provided an assist in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since November 2015.
– This was Tony Pulis’ 300th Premier League game as manager. Of managers to reach the milestone, only Steve Bruce won fewer of his opening 300 (88, Pulis 95).