European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain

England and Belgium racked up the goals on the road but Spain were toppled from top spot in their group by a Sweden comeback.

England and Belgium strengthened their positions at the top of their sections on Thursday but it was a different story for Spain, who relinquished first place and their 66-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers with defeat in Sweden.

On Wednesday, Cristiano Ronaldo struck two late goals the first making him international football’s all-time leading scorer to turn defeat into victory for Portugal. Elsewhere, Denmark made it four wins from four but France, Turkey and the Netherlands were all held.

England moved five points clear at the top of Group I courtesy of a second-half stroll in Budapest, scoring three times in 15 minutes through Raheem Sterling’s finish after a slick move and headers from Harry Kane and Harry Maguire.

Declan Rice added a long-range fourth with three minutes remaining.

Sweden end Spain’s streak
The hosts recovered from conceding an early Carlos Soler goal to beat Spain in Solna and go top of Group B. Alexander Isak cancelled out the opener straight from kick-off making it 1-1 after just six minutes before Dejan Kulusevski’s brilliance set up Viktor Claesson’s second-half winner.

A resolute defensive display saw the hosts home and ended La Roja’s 66-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers dating back to 1993.

Record-equalling Italy
Italy equalled Spain’s European record of 35 international matches unbeaten but were frustrated by a gallant Bulgaria side in Florence.

Federico Chiesa’s wonderful goal put the new European champions in front but Atanas Iliev swept Bulgaria level before the break.

The Azzurri completely dominated the second half but brave defending and some excellent goalkeeping from Georgi Georgiev kept them at bay.

Best of the rest
Belgium had to recover from a goal down to see off Estonia, with the ever-prolific Romelu Lukaku striking twice.

Robert Lewandowski is equally relentless and he took his tally to 11 goals in his last seven games for club and country with the opener as Poland overcame Albania.

There was also a winning start for new Germany coach Hansi Flick.

Credit: GOAL.COM

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