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Italy held to draw, Spain maintains perfect record

DEFENDING champion Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Ireland yesterday in World Cup qualifying, and European champion Spain, England and the Netherlands maintained their perfect records.

Robbie Keane scored from Caleb Folan's header in the 89th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw for Ireland after Italy forward Giampaolo Pazzini was sent off in the third minute for elbowing John O'Shea while going up for a header, bloodying the Ireland defender's face.

Vincenzo Iaquinta had put Italy in front in the 10th, redirecting a pass that Fabio Grosso slid across the goal mouth.

The draw put Ireland two points behind Italy at the top of Group 8.

Spain got a late goal from Albert Riera to beat Turkey 2-1, Dirk Kuyt scored two to lead the Netherlands over Macedonia 4-0 and John Terry put in the winning goal in the 85th minute to give England a 2-1 win over Ukraine.

Also, Germany maintained its four-point lead at the top of Group 4 with a 2-0 win at Wales, while Franck Ribery scored his second goal in five days against Lithuania to lead France to a 1-0 win in Group 7.

Spain trailed Turkey after Semih Senturk scored in the 26th, but Xabi Alonso equalized from the penalty spot in the 62nd after defender Ibrahim Uzulmez blocked the ball with his hand in a rough challenge just in front of goal.

Riera benefited from a gap in the Turkish defense to score in the second minute of injury time from a pass by Daniel Guiza to put the European champions six points ahead of Bosnia in Group 5.

Bosnia-Herzegovina remains behind Spain after Edin Dzeko scored twice in a 2-1 win over Belgium. Estonia beat Armenia 1-0.

At Wembley Stadium, Peter Crouch's goal put England ahead in the 29th, but substitute Andriy Shevchenko leveled in the 74th with a half-volley after the home side failed to clear a free kick.

Terry produced the late winner from close range, scoring from close range after Steven Gerrard had touched on David Beckham's free kick.

"We were disappointed to concede a goal late on but showed great character to come back and win the game, so there are some real positives," Terry said. "There was some great fight and desire from the lads, we're not settling for 1-1 and we went on to win the game."

Also in Group 6, Belarus routed Kazakhstan 5-1 and Croatia beat Andorra 2-0.

The Netherlands also took a major step toward qualifying for South Africa with its win in Group 9. The Dutch team now has an eight-point lead over Scotland, which beat Iceland 2-1.

In Group 3, Poland routed San Marino 10-0 and is three points behind leader Northern Ireland, which beat Slovenia 1-0. Poland has a game in hand.

Denmark and Hungary remained at the top of Group 1 after both won 3-0. But Denmark, which beat Albania, has played a game less than Hungary, which defeated Malta.

In Group 2, Dimitris Salpigidis and substitute Georgios Samaras scored a goal each to help Greece beat Israel 2-1 and remain level with Switzerland at the top of Group 2. The Swiss beat bottom-place Moldova 2-0.

In Asian qualifying, Australia almost became the first to secure a place in South Africa by beating Uzbekistan 2-0.

All the Aussies needed was for the Group A match between Bahrain and Qatar to end in a draw, but Fouzi Aaish's curling free kick gave Bahrain a 1-0 win in Manama.

Also, South Korea beta North Korea 1-0 and Saudi Arabia defeated the United Arab Emirates 3-2.


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