Samaras smoothes way for Greece to close in on finals

Late goals from Georgios Samaras and Theofanis Gekas helped Greece regain control of UEFA European Championship Qualifying Group F with a tense 2-0 win over Croatia in Piraeus.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 8th October 2011, 5:54 pm

The Greeks started the night knowing a win was almost essential in their penultimate match in the group, with the Croatians enjoying a one-point lead. Celtic player Samaras struck in the 71st minute and Gekas added the second eight minutes later to leave the Greeks knowing a point in their final group game in Georgia next Tuesday will be enough. Latvia beat Malta 2-0 in the other Group F game.

Belgium wrested control of the race for a play-off place in Group A with a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan in Brussels, while rivals Turkey were sent crashing 3-1 by group winners Germany in Istanbul.

Holland were made to work harder than expected to extend their 100 per cent record to nine games in Group E, Klaas Jan Huntelaar scoring the only goal of the game in the 40th minute at home to group minnows Moldova.

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Sweden effectively guaranteed the runners-up slot with a 2-1 win over Finland in Helsinki, Sebastian Larsson’s early strike setting the Swedes on their way and Martin Olsson adding a second before Joona Toivio’s late consolation.

In Group D, Bosnia set up a winner-takes-all clash with France in Paris after a 5-0 win over Luxembourg in Zenica, while the French cantered to an equally convincing 3-0 triumph against Albania.

Branislav Ivanovic cancelled out Claudio Marchisio’s early strike as Serbia secured a vital point in Group C with a 1-1 draw against Italy in Belgrade.

Russia all but wrapped up qualification from Group B as Alan Dzagoev scored the only goal of the game against Slovakia in Zilina. Victory at home to Andorra on Tuesday night will secure the Russians’ place in the finals.