Spain leave it late, England win again
Winger Albert Riera struck a stoppage-time winner for European champions Spain who came from behind to win 2-1 in Turkey and maintain their 100% record in 2010 World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday. Spain, the world's top-ranked side, made it six wins from six in Group Five and can almost certainly start planning for next year's finals in South Africa.
England continue to banish memories of their failed Euro 2008 qualifying campaign with captain John Terry hooking in the winner five minutes from time as Group Six rivals Ukraine were beaten 2-1 at Wembley.
The Netherlands, like England, also extended their perfect record in Group Nine with Dirk Kuyt scoring twice in a 4-0 demolition of Macedonia.
Europe's other heavyweights flexed their muscles with differing performances and results.
World champions Italy, a man down for almost the entire game in Bari after striker Giampaolo Pazzini's early red card, were foiled by a late Robbie Keane equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Ireland in Group Eight.
"It's not right, not right. Ninety minutes with 10 men because of that? At international level? It is not right in any way," Italy coach Marcello Lippi, angry at Pazzini's harsh dismissal, told Rai television.
Group Four leaders Germany eased to a 2-0 win over Wales in Cardiff while France scraped a 1-0 win over Lithuania in Paris.
Spain extended their remarkable unbeaten run to 31 games stretching back to November 2006 but were again forced to display their resilience after Samih Senturk, who scored three goals in Turkey's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, had fired the hosts ahead at a raucous Ali Sami Yen stadium in Istanbul.
Turkey, who lost 1-0 to Spain in Madrid on Saturday, took the lead against the run of play after 26 minutes. Tuncay Sanli got to Arda Turan's teasing cross into the danger zone before Iker Cassilas and with the Spain keeper out of position, an off-balance Tuncay was able to square for Semih to slot in.
Spain drew level just past the hour when English referee Mike Riley awarded a penalty after Ibrahim Uzulmez blocked a Torres close-range header with his arm. Xabi Alonso made no mistake from the spot.
The winner came from a swift break in injury time. Daniel Guiza got the better of his marker down the right flank and cross low for an unmarked Riera to fire in.
A stunned crowd in Bari fell silent after four minutes when Pazzini, who scored on his international debut on Saturday, was shown a straight red card for catching John O'Shea with his leading arm.
Galvanised, Group Eight leaders Italy went ahead soon after when Vincenzo Iaquinta tapped in but Ireland, managed by former Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni, eventually capitalised on their numerical advantage with Robbie Keane levelling late on.
"It's a shame they scored a goal so late, I'm sorry for that but overall I'm sorry for having played a match at this level with 10 against 11 because of the fault of a referee," said Lippi.
England appeared set to drop their first points of the campaign after Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko, who endured an unhappy spell in the Premier League with Chelsea, cancelled out a Peter Crouch strike with 16 minutes left.
Shevchenko, who scored nine league goals in 47 appearances in two seasons at Stamford Bridge but is now back on loan at AC Milan, celebrated hard but the smile was wiped off his face on 85 minutes when Steven Gerrard knocked down a David Beckham free kick and centre back Terry stretched out a leg for the winner.
France again had Franck Ribery to thank for keeping their qualifying hopes on track. The midfielder hit the winner for France for the second time in four days when he poked home 15 minutes from time and his performance earned warm praise from coach Raymond Domenech.
"Ribery is one of the key elements in this team, just like Titi (Thierry Henry) and William (Gallas)," Domenech told reporters. "In every generation, you need a great player. We are lucky because we have four or five."
France moved up to second in Group Seven with 10 points from five games, two points adrift of leaders Serbia.
Michael Ballack set Germany on their way against Wales with a superb long-range strike and an own goal from Ashley Williams made it 2-0 soon after halftime.
Poland rebounded from their weekend defeat by Northern Ireland by thumping 10 goals past hapless San Marino in Group Three. Ebi Smolarek helped himself to four goals for the Poles.