Oct 8 (Reuters) – Slovenia and Scotland played out a dramatic 2-2 draw in Ljubljana on Sunday but the result ensured both sides’ World Cup dreams were extinguished as they fell short of making the playoffs.
With Slovakia, as expected, beating Malta 3-0, it left the Scots needing to win to seal a playoff spot from Group F and when Leigh Griffiths put them ahead against the run of play in the first half, they were on course to do just that.
Yet after substitute Roman Bezjak headed home a 52nd minute equaliser and coolly slotted in a second 20 minutes later, it seemed improbable Gordon Strachan’s never-say-die Scotland could find another of their familiar late surges to rescue the day.
Even though Robert Snodgrass did snatch an equaliser with three minutes left, Scotland had run out of miracles even though Slovenia’s Bostjan Cesar, on his 100th appearance, was shown a straight red card in added time.
The draw meant Scotland could only finish third in the group on 18 points, behind Slovakia only on goal difference, eight points adrift of group winners England and three points ahead of Slovenia.
The result also confirmed Northern Ireland’s place in the playoffs, as the Group C side have a better record against the teams in their section than Slovakia.
LITHUANIA 0 ENGLAND 1
England rounded off an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign with Harry Kane’s first-half penalty sealing an uninspiring 1-0 victory over Lithuania in rainy Vilnius on Sunday.
Kane converted from the spot in the 27th minute for his sixth goal in his last seven England matches after his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Dele Alli tumbled in the area under a clumsy challenge from Ovidijus Verbickas in the Group F match.
England, who qualified for a sixth successive World Cup finals on Thursday when Kane scored a last-gasp goal in a 1-0 defeat of Slovenia at Wembley, made several changes to their lineup but again failed to offer much excitement.
Despite overwhelming possession on the slick artificial surface they struggled to open up a resolute home side with chances few and far between in a drab encounter.
England, unbeaten in 21 World Cup qualifiers, finished top of Group F with 26 points from 10 matches.
DENMARK 1 ROMANIA 1
Nicklas Bendtner returned to the starting line-up to help Denmark secure second position in Group E and a place in the playoffs, winning a penalty for his side in a 1-1 draw with Romania in their final World Cup qualifier.
Manager Age Hareide gave Bendtner, currently plying his trade at Norwegian side Rosenborg, his first competitive start for almost two years and the striker repaid his coach’s faith with a lively, if sometimes ragged, display.
With group rivals Poland taking an early lead against Montenegro, the Danes knew that they could no longer win the group, but Bendtner and Pione Sisto were keen to give the sell-out crowd at the Parken Stadium their money’s worth.
Sisto let fly with a stinging shot from distance on the half-hour mark that was touched over the bar for a corner, and moments later Bendtner missed a glorious chance to put Denmark in front as his shot was blocked by a last-ditch tackle.
Shortly after, the 29-year-old former Arsenal and Juventus striker had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Bendtner finally paved the way for the deadlock to be broken when he was pulled back in the box on the hour mark by defender Cristian Ganea as he attempted a header, and Christian Eriksen stepped up to convert the spot kick.
Ganea was sent off moments later, collecting his second yellow card for dragging down Yussuf Poulsen, but despite being down to ten men, Ciprian Deac fired home a late equaliser for Romania in the 88th minute.
Poland beat Montenegro 4-2 to finish top of Group E on 25 points with the Danes second on 20, four ahead of third-placed Montenegro and seven ahead of Romania, who finished fourth.
Summaries from the World Cup Qualifying European matches on Sunday
Poland 4 Krzysztof Maczynski 6, Kamil Grosicki 16, Robert Lewandowski 85, Filip Stojkovic 87og
Montenegro 2 Stefan Mugosa 78, Zarko Tomasevic 83
– – –
Denmark 1 Christian Eriksen 60pen
Romania 1 Ciprian Deac 88
– – –
Kazakhstan 1 Bauyrzhan Turysbek 62
Armenia 1 Henrikh Mkhitaryan 26
– – –
Slovenia 2 Roman Bezjak 52,72
Red Card: Bostjan Cesar 90+2
Scotland 2 Leigh Griffiths 32, Robert Snodgrass 87
– – –
England 1 Harry Kane 27pen
– – –
Slovakia 3 Adam Nemec 33,62, Ondrej Duda 69