Turkey fall apart while Ronaldo gets bogged down in Bosnia
Saturday 12 November 2011
Croatia joined the Republic of Ireland on the verge of qualification for next summer's European Championship as they
romped to a comfortable 3-0 victory away to Turkey in the first leg
of their play-off.
Goals from Bayern Munich striker Ivica Olic, Wolfsburg's Mario Mandzukic and Tottenham right-back Vedran Corluka should ensure their home leg on Tuesday is a formality. Olic put the visitors ahead in Istanbul in the second minute with a simple tap-in from close range after goalkeeper Volkan Demirel failed to cut out a low cross from Corluka.
Despite a long period of Turkey possession, Croatia doubled their lead in the 32nd minute when Mandzukic headed in a cross from Darijo Srna at the far post. The home side's misery was complete in the second half as Corluka made it 3-0 in the 51st minute, escaping his marker and heading in from close range from a free-kick whipped in by Srna.
A Tomas Rosicky-inspired Czech Republic beat Montenegro 2-0 in Prague, putting the hosts firmly in the driving seat to qualify for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The Czechs dominated possession but could not break down the Montenegro defence until the 63rd minute when Vaclav Pilar collected a pass on the edge of the penalty area from playmaker Rosicky and rifled a shot home.
The home side continued to press and Tomas Sivok grabbed a crucial second goal in stoppage time after another assist from Rosicky.
Portugal failed to break down Bosnia in Zenica to leave their play-off finely balanced after a goalless stalemate on a barely playable pitch in the ramshackle Bilino Polje Stadium. The Portuguese, who beat Bosnia in the 2010 World Cup play-offs, dominated proceedings but were almost caught napping late on. The visitors had the upper hand in the opening stages, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani looking lively, but failed to create any clear-cut chances as their final pass kept going astray on the bumpy surface.
*Kenny Miller's dipping volley and Jamie Mackie's fine finish after a mazy run gave Scotland a narrow 2-1 friendly victory over Cyprus in Larnaca. However, the goals were significantly more impressive than the overall performance, with Cyprus twice hitting the post and grabbing one back in the second half to make it a nervy finish for the Scots.
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