Football: Poland rout the Bulgarians

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The Independent Online
POLAND SOUNDED a warning to England last night when they travelled to Bourgas on the Black Sea and trounced Bulgaria 3-0 in their opening Euro 2000 qualifying match.

The Poles leapfrogged Sweden, England's conquerors, with a stirring display of counter-attacking highlighted by two first-half goals by Sylwester Czereszewski. Tomasz Iwan completed the runaway win with the third three minutes after the restart in a fierce encounter in which there were seven bookings.

Angry fans immediately called for the resignation of Bulgaria's coach, Hristo Bonev, who had kept faith with the veteran striker Hristo Stoichkov.

The Group Two favourites, Norway, were given a rude awakening when they were beaten 3-1 at home by Latvia. Marians Pahars scored the opening goal after 11 minutes and although Staale Solbakken equalised for Norway six minutes later, Latvia won with second-half goals by Andreja Stolcers and Mihails Zemlinskis.

Javier Clemente said he has no intention of resigning as Spain's coach despite his side's dismal 3-2 defeat away to Cyprus in their European Championship qualifying Group Six match.

Clemente, who survived calls for his resignation after Spain's unexpected first-round exit at the World Cup in France, knows the knives will be out once more in the wake of the Cyprus debacle, which saw Spain outfought and outplayed by their modest hosts.

Cyprus were 2-0 ahead inside 48 minutes, Panayiotis Engomitis and Sinica Gogic scoring either side of half-time, and kept their shape after a goal from Raul, the Real Madrid striker, threatened to inspire a comeback from Spain. They went 3-1 ahead thanks to a superb header from Milenko Spoljaric and held on after Fernando Morientes' late response for Spain.

The omens for Russia's first encounter with Ukraine, their fellow former Soviet republic, were never good and Saturday's 3-2 defeat suggested a squad in as deep a crisis as the country's economy.

The collapsing rouble ensnared the Russian team even as they prepared to travel for the Group Four match. Only the arrival of an armoured car laden with hard cash persuaded the Moscow airport authorities to fuel their charter plane and let them fly to Kiev.

"Players cannot help but be worried and to some extent distracted by what's going on in the country," Russia's new Ukrainian-born coach, Anatoly Byshovets, said, praising the way his makeshift foreign legion hung on after the Chelsea goalkeeper Dimitri Kharine was sent off.

Ukraine's Prime Minister, Valery Pustovoitenko, who also heads their football federation, was among 82,000 passionate fans who watched their side take the Russians apart, going 2-0 up inside 25 minutes and only narrowly failing on a number of occasions to turn the match into a rout.

Unheralded Iceland confirmed on Saturday what the world has suspected, that France lack an effective strike force despite winning the World Cup. The world champions failed to shine in their opening Group Four qualifier, drawing 1-1 in Reykjavik, a result which will raise the hopes of both Ukraine and Russia.

"I cannot blame the players. They did what I was expecting from them tonight. But I must say that we were unlucky," said France's new coach, Roger Lemerre, who will find that blaming fate will find him few allies from a hostile French press.