Croatia held on to second place in Group 6, and maintained their distant pursuit of England, with a disjointed 1-0 win over Belarus, but they will be without Vedran Corluka for Wednesday's game at Wembley after he was sent off with 12 minutes remaining.
Already booked for a foul late in the first half, the Tottenham full-back collected a second caution for time-wasting as he dallied over the taking of a free-kick. Ivan Rakitic, playing only because of the injury to Luka Modric, got the game's only goal midway through the first half, his 30-yard drive deflecting in off Dmitry Verkhovtsov.
"We can go to Wembley and win again, but I am not saying we will win," Slaven Bilic, the Croatia coach, said. "We've already beaten England twice before, which very few teams if any have done in such a short space of time. They have won seven games out of seven, and they are on fire. I would swap the points that they have got for the points that we have got. But we are very confident. "
Penalties were the order of the day as Ukraine kept up their pursuit of England and Croatia with a 5-0 thrashing of Andorra in Kiev. Andriy Yarmolenko, the 19-year-old Dynamo Kiev striker, opened the scoring after 28 minutes, and Artem Milevski scored the second in added time before the interval. After the break it was all penaltie. Andriy Shevchenko put away his one in the 72nd minute, Milevski added his second goal from the spot in added time at the end of the match after a foul by Marc Vales and moments before the whistle Yevgen Seleznov, of Shakhtar Donetsk, added the fifth from another penalty after Vales handled a shot by Milevski.
Russia had two spot kicks, too, as they scored a 3-0 victory in St Petersburg over Liechtenstein, the minnows of group four, Wales's group. Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Tottenham striker, put away both of them in the first half after CSKA Moscow's Vasili Berezutsky had set the ball rolling.
Russia'a victory kept them on Germany's heels at the top of the group. Germany, who beat South Africa 2-0 in a friendly. They play at home on Wednesday against Azerbaijan, who lost 2-1 to Finland.
Spain continued their charge to the finals by beating Belgium 5-0 in La Coruna in group five. David Silva scored twice, as did David Silva, with Gerard Pique, once of Manchester United, adding the fifth.