Football: Poland stay in frame

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PLAYING IN driving rain and on a waterlogged pitch, Poland gave their chances of getting through to the Euro 2000 finals a huge boost on Friday night when they defeated Bulgaria 2-0 in the Group Five qualifier at the Legia Daewoo Stadium in Warsaw.

The MSV Duisburg midfielder Tomasz Hajto opened the scoring with a fierce shot following a 15th-minute corner and, after striking the post on the half-hour, Bulgaria were finally sunk when the PSV Eindhoven striker Tomasz Iwan added a second after rounding Bulgaria's goalkeeper in the 62nd minute.

"We have now boosted our chances of advancing to the European Championships despite losing heavily against England and Sweden," the Poland coach Janusz Wojcik said after the victory.

Poland now travel to Luxembourg for their next group match on Wednesday, the same day as Bulgaria play England in Sofia.

Oliver Bierhoff recaptured his scoring touch for the national side in spectacular fashion with a three-goal haul which inspired Germany to a 6-1 demolition of Moldova in their European Championship Group Three qualifier on Friday.

Bierhoff, who had gone four matches without a goal for his country, warmed up by hitting the bar from a Marco Bode cross within a few seconds of the kick-off. The Milan striker, whose last international goal had come in an unconvincing 3-1 win over the same opponents last October, fired home his first from an Ulf Kirsten pass in just the second minute. Bierhoff, the German captain, gave the reigning European champions a 4-0 lead in the 55th minute and grabbed his hat-trick with a strike eight minutes from time.

Bayer Leverkusen's Kirsten, on his home ground, put Germany 2-0 up in the 27th minute and the winger Bode made it 3-0 seven minutes from the interval. Bayern Munich's Mehmet Scholl came off the bench to score Germany's fifth goal with a well-taken effort in the 71st minute.

"The team showed from the start that they wanted desperately to win," said the Germany coach Erich Ribbeck. "What I liked is that every single player out there was highly motivated. It showed out there on the pitch."

Germany, who had started their campaign for Euro 2000 with a 1-0 loss to Turkey, now have 12 points from five games and an impressive goal difference. Their next qualifier is away to Finland on 4 September. Moldova now have just two points from six games and play next at home to Finland on Wednesday.