World Cup qualifying: England lifted as nine-man Montenegro suffer home humiliation


England’s hopes of reaching the World Cup finals in Brazil next year were boosted last night when group leaders Montenegro were thrashed 4-0 at home in a bad-tempered game by Ukraine.

Montenegro still lead Roy Hodgson’s side by two points but have played a game more, while Ukraine are now a point behind England from the same number of matches. Poland are also in the mix yet were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Moldova.

Ukraine had Roman Zozulya sent off in first-half stoppage time in Podgorica but took the lead six minutes after the restart through Denys Garmash. Yevgen Konoplianka made it 2-0 in  between the dismissals of Montenegro’s Vladimir Volkov and Savo Pavicevic, while Artem Fedetskiy and Romas Bezus added further goals.

Robert Snodgrass was the hero as Scotland pulled off a major shock by picking up their first win of the World Cup qualifying campaign by beating Croatia 1-0 in Zagreb.

Gordon Strachan’s side headed into the match already out of the race for Brazil and 70 places behind Croatia in the world rankings. But Snodgrass proved to be the difference between the sides, latching on to a loose ball after a Shaun Maloney run was blocked to stab home in the 26th minute.

Allan McGregor  was called on to make several good saves in the visitors’ goal and Mario Mandzukic just failed to connect with an Ivica Olic cross at the far post but Scotland held on for their first competitive victory since beating Liechtenstein in October 2011.

Robbie Keane celebrated his record-breaking 126th cap with a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland eased past the Faroe Islands 3-0 in Dublin.

The 32-year-old claimed his 57th senior international goal with an accomplished finish with just five minutes gone, and then added another 10 minutes after the break from Seamus Coleman’s inviting cross. But there was more to come as substitutes James McClean and Conor Sammon teamed up to hand him his third of the night and 59th in total with nine minutes to go.