UEFA World Cup Qualifiers Matchday #5 Friday Review

"Wales winger Gareth Bale tries a free-kick against the Republic of Ireland during their 0-0 draw on Friday." (Credit to Sky Sports.)
“Flares appear on the field during the Italy vs. Albania WCQ Friday evening. Italy went on to win the match 2-0.” (Credit to Goal.com.)

With domestic leagues off this weekend, the fifth round of UEFA World Cup Qualifiers kicked off on Friday with nine matches across Europe. 

Group D, H, and I all took center-stage on Friday while the remaining six groups kick-off their fifth round qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday.

Here is a rundown of all the day’s action from UEFA’s World Cup Qualifiers:

Group D
Group-leaders Serbia fought back on the road for a 3-1 victory at Georgia on Friday. Dusan Tadic‘s 45th minute penalty kick goal drew the visitors level after Nika Kacharava opened the scoring for the hosts after five minutes. Newcastle‘s Aleksandar Mitrovic put the Serbs ahead 2-1 in the 64th minute before Milat Gacinovic capped the score at 3-1.

At the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland and Wales played out a 0-0 draw. Despite Neil Taylor’s dismissal in the 69th minute due to a silly red-card challenge, the hosts couldn’t muster up a real chance on-goal. James McClean‘s deflected effort was the closest the hosts came to scoring. Wales will be without star winger Gareth Bale on MatchDay #6 due to yellow-card accumulation.

Austria earned their first qualifying win of the campaign with a 2-0 home success against Moldova. Marcel Sabitzer‘s 75th goal proved to be the winner, with Martin Harnik adding an insurance goal in the 90th minute. Moldova keeper Stanislav Namasco made five saves in the defeat, which is Moldova’s third of qualifying.

1. Serbia (11 points – 3-2-0 )
2. Republic of Ireland (11 points – 3-2-0)
3. Wales (7 points – 1-4-0 )
4. Austria (5 points – 1-2-2 )
5. Georgia (2 points – 0-2-3 )
6. Moldova (2 points – 0-2-3 )

Group H
Group-leaders Spain remained atop Group H with a 4-1 home win against Israel. Manchester City‘s David Silva opened the scoring after 13 minutes, before Vitolo doubled the Spaniards advantage before halftime. Diego Costa made it 3-0 Spain in the 51st minute, before Israel netted their first goal of the game thanks to Lior Refaelov‘s 76th minute finish. Real Madrid midfielder Isco capped the scoring at 4-1 two minutes to time as Spain kept their perfect start to qualifying going.

Italy remain level on points with group-leaders Spain after a 2-0 home win against Albania. Daniele De Rossi opened the scoring after 12 minutes, while Ciro Immobile added an 80th minute goal of his own to give the hosts a hard-earned three points. Albania held their own for most of the match, but only created one shot-on-goal offensively.

In a battle of the bottom-two sides in Group H, Macedonia earned their first qualifying win with a 3-0 road success at Liechtenstein. Boban Nikolov gave the visitors a 1-0 halftime lead after a 43rd minute goal. IIija Nestoroski added a second-half brace to see Macedonia to a comfortable win. Hosts Liechtenstein failed to record a shot-on-goal, while Macedonia had six efforts-on-goal.

1. Spain (13 points – 4-1-0 )
2. Italy (13 points – 4-1-0 )
3. Israel (9 points – 3-0-2 )
4. Albania (6 points – 2-0-3 )
5. Macedonia (3 points – 1-0-4)
6. Liechtenstein (0 points – 0-0-5 )

Group I

In Group I’s early action, Turkey gave Finland their fourth qualifying defeat of the campaign thanks to a 2-0 home win. A first-half brace from Cenk Tosun was all the hosts needed to pull themselves closer to a playoff spot. Despite a 55%-45% advantage in possession, Finland only had one shot-on-goal. Tosun’s goals for Turkey were their only efforts-on-goal.

Iceland jumped to second in Group I after a 2-1 road win against Kosovo. Despite a 52nd goal from Atdhe Nuhiu, the visitors walked away with three points to leapfrog Ukraine in the group standings. Bjorn Sigurdarson opened the scoring for Iceland in the 25th minute, before Swansea‘s Glyfi Sigurdsson made it 2-0 ten minutes later. Kosovo had four shots-on-goal, but were unable beat Iceland for a second time on the evening.

Group-leaders Croatia held on for a 1-0 home victory against Ukraine to remain unbeaten in qualifying. Fiorentina‘s Nikola Kalinic netted the only goal of the match in the 38th minute.  Ukraine saw five efforts saved from Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic. With the loss, Ukraine fall to third place as Iceland jump up to second.

1. Croatia (13 points – 4-1-0 )
2. Iceland (10 points – 3-1-1 )
3. Ukraine (8 points – 2-2-1 )
4. Turkey (8 points – 2-2-1 )
5. Finland (1 points – 0-1-4 )
6. Kosovo (1 points – 0-1-4 )

UEFA World Cup Qualifying continues on Saturday and concludes on Sunday.