Oslo, Sep 5 (IANS) Reigning world football champions Germany began their 2018 World Cup qualifiers with a sound 3-0 victory over Norway in Oslo, while Poland shared the spoils with Kazakhstan in Astana and Czech Republic and Northern Ireland played a goalless draw in Prague.
Germany on Sunday cantered to a 3-0 win in Group C as Thomas Müller, who failed to find the net at UEFA EURO 2016, ended the drought with a pair of goals, either side of setting up a first national strike for Joshua Kimmich.
In Prague, New Czech coach Karel Jarolím endured a frustrating debut outing as the hosts struggled to make the most of their chances, particularly after cranking up the pressure in the second half against Northern Ireland.
Filip Novák squandered the best of their openings just after the hour as Northern Ireland held firm for a seventh consecutive World Cup or EURO qualifier unbeaten.
Meanwhile, Poland looked to be cruising to an opening win after a strong start in Astana, with Bartosz Kapustka registering the first goal in the European qualifiers before Robert Lewandowski weighed in from the penalty spot.
But Sergei Khizhnichenko had other ideas as he rescued his side a point with a pair of second-half efforts.
Like Kazakhstan, Slovenia also pulled off a notable escape act, captain Botjan Cesar earning a share of the spoils with a looping header three minutes into added time — after René Krhin had begun their fightback with 13 minutes remaining.
Lithuania were left to rue dropped points after a blistering two-goal salvo from captain Fiodor Cernych and youngster Vykintas Slivka in the space of two first-half minutes.
In Copenhagan, Denmark clinched their first competitive triumph without coach Morten Olsen at the helm since 2000 as a superbly worked team goal made the difference.
Christian Eriksen applied the finish for Age Hareide’s men, steering in a low shot from outside the area in the 17th minute, and he was only denied a second by a penalty save from Arsen Beglaryan after the break.
Meanwhile in San Marino, striker Ruslan Gurbanov enjoyed a day to remember as his maiden international goal sealed just a second competitive away win for Azerbaijan.
The 24-year-old headed in on the stroke of half-time, and the home side’s hopes of levelling with their first effort at the new San Marino Stadium took a hit when they lost Christian Brolli to a 52nd-minute red card.
Meanwhile in Valletta, Robert Snodgrass plundered Scotland’s first hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier since 1969 to help Gordon Strachan’s side post an eye-catching 5-1 result against hosts Malta.
In the 1-1 draw between Romania and Montenegro in Cluj-Napoca, Nicolae Stanciu had a penalty saved in the 97th minute as the hosts missed out on victory in a game that exploded into life in the latter stages.
Stevan Jovetic blasted an 87th-minute leveller for Montenegro just after Adrien Popa had finally broken the deadlock.
Stanciu’s miss denied Christoph Daum the boon of a victory in his opening test as Romania’s first ever foreign coach.