Roman Pavlyuchenko, who is struggling to establish himself as a regular in Tottenham's starting line-up, scored one goal and laid on the other as Russia strengthened their challenge for a place in the World Cup finals with a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan in Moscow.
Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin was influential in giving Russia control of the Group Four match, but they could not find a way past the Azeri defence until Pavlyuchenko bam-boozled the goalkeeper, Farhad Veliyev, with a free-kick from 25 yards in the 32nd minute. The Spurs striker then threaded a pass through for Konstantin Zyryanov to add the second from close range in the 71st minute and wrap up an unconvincing victory.
Russia stayed well clear of Wales, tightening their grip on second place in the group, behind Germany, who breezed past Liechtenstein 4-0 with Michael Ballack scoring the first.
Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun, an injury doubt before kick-off, was carried off in the 77th minute of Israel's 1-1 draw at home to Greece in Group Two. Greece took the lead in the 42nd minute when Fanis Gekas turned home a rebound.
Israel perked up after the break and equalised in the 55th minute when Omer Golan scored from a pass by Benayoun. Israel are third in the group behind Greece and Switzerland, who won 2-0 in Moldova with Manchester City's Gelson Fernandes scoring the second.
Giampaolo Pazzini marked his international debut with a goal that completed Italy's 2-0 victory over Montenegro in Podgorica, giving them a two-point edge over the Republic of Ireland at the top of Group Eight. He came off the bench to head in Simone Pepe's cross in the 73rd minute after Andrea Pirlo converted a penalty for handball in the 11th minute.
The defender Gerard Pique scored his first goal for Spain to give the European champions a 1-0 win over Turkey in Group Five which was more comfortable than the result suggests. On the hour Pique marked his second international game by turning the ball in from close range after a free-kick by Xavis had bounced across goal off Sergio Ramos.
Spain, with a perfect record of five wins, lead the group by six points from free-scoring Bosnia-Herzegovina, who stepped up their campaign with a 4-2 victory away to Belgium.
Portugal face an uphill struggle to reach the finals after wasting a host of chances in a 0-0 draw with Sweden in a Group One match in Lisbon.
France got their campaign into gear in Group Seven with a 1-0 victory away to Lithuania. They dominated without creating chances and had to rely on Franck Ribéry's smart finish midway through the second half after he was set up by Yoann Gourcuff. They remain third in the group, which is led by Serbia.
A deflected free-kick by the Celtic favourite Shunsuke Nakamura two minutes into the second half gave Japan a 1-0 victory over Bahrain in the Asian Group One, which they lead.
The Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, returning from a hamstring injury, scored the only goal as Togo beat Cameroon in their qualifier. He capitalised on a slip by the Reading defender Andre Bikey after 11 minutes but then missed a penalty in the second half.