Spain subdues France with Pedro winner
Pedro's second-half strike ensured Spain moved to the top of Group I after claiming a 1-0 victory at World Cup qualification rivals France, whose misery was compounded by Paul Pogba's red card.
Tuesday night's clash at the Stade de France offered the chance for both sides to stamp their authority on the group and it was world and European champions Spain who duly took advantage just before the hour.
Barcelona forward Pedro slotted home from close range following Nacho Monreal's cross from the left and France's hopes of a share of the spoils took a blow when Pogba collected two quick bookings to see red in the 78th minute in just his second appearance for Les Bleus.
"They are three welcome points, and this changes our group position for the better," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.
Germany moved five points clear of Sweden at the top of Group C after its Borussia Dortmund connection inspired it to a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan.
Marco Reus was on target twice with Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan also scoring for Joachim Low's men.
Greuther Furth's Heinrich Schmidtgal scored a consolation for the visitors, who caused Germany an unexpectedly high number of problems in the second half.
David Alaba's late equalizer left Republic of Ireland's hopes of second spot in the pool in tatters as Austria came away from the Aviva Stadium with a 2-2 draw.
Jon Walters looked to have given the Republic the points when he cancelled out Martin Harnik's opener from the penalty spot and then headed his side in front, but, with a minute of stoppage time remaining, Alaba blasted the Austrians into second place.
Spain had dropped two points behind France after last Friday's draw with Finland, an unfamiliar spot for the team that has won the last two European titles in addition to the 2010 World Cup. But the Spanish are back in control after Pedro settled a fiercely contested match in Paris in the 58th minute, left unmarked to meet Ignacio Monreal's cross from the left.
French hopes of a comeback were thwarted when Pogba picked up a second yellow card in the 78th for a late challenge on Xavi Hernandez.
"There are still three games left so there is plenty of time left to drop points, for both sides," del Bosque said. "This isn't over, although it's true France missed a chance to pull away."
Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Khacheridi helped 10-man Ukraine edge to a 2-1 win over Moldova, who grabbed a late consolation through Alexandr Suvorov, with their hopes of a point briefly raised when Taras Stepanenko was dismissed for violent conduct in injury time.
The Netherlands maintained its perfect record in Group D as two goals from Robin van Persie helped it earn a convincing 4-0 win over Romania at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while after the break Van Persie struck twice, the second a penalty, and Jeremain Lens added a fourth in the last minute.
Substitute Daniel Bode earned a 1-1 draw for Hungary at Turkey, which had taken the lead through Burak Yilmaz, while goals either side of halftime from Henri Anier and Joel Lindpere gave Estonia a 2-0 win over fellow group minnows Andorra.
Elsewhere in the group, Matej Vydra bagged a brace before substitute Daniel Kolar rubber-stamped a 3-0 victory for the Czech Republic at Armenia.
Eden Hazard was on the scoresheet as Belgium maintained its position as leaders of Group A with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia.
Dejan Lovren and Eduardo came to Croatia's rescue as they came from behind to claim a 2-1 triumph at Wales, which had opened the scoring through Gareth Bale's penalty, while Filip Duricic's second-half brace ensured Serbia eased past Scotland 2-0.
Second-half goals from Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida helped stuttering Portugal to a 2-0 Group F victory at 10-man Azerbaijan, which had Rauf Aliyev sent off for two bookings in Baku, while Israel beat Northern Ireland by the same scoreline thanks to late strikes from Lior Refaelov and Eden Ben Basat.
Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.