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September 24, 2017

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England and Germany move closer to World Cup qualification

BARCELONA - England had to come from behind to beat Slovakia 2-1 at Wembley on Monday, while Germany thrashed Norway 6-0 in a one-sided World Cup 2018 qualifier, with both teams closing in on a place in Russia.

Slovakia took just three minutes to strike when Marcus Rashford gave the ball away outside his area, the visitors taking full advantage to play in Stanislav Lobotka, who hammered past Joe Hart.

Gareth Southgate's side equalized in the 38th minute, Rashford keeping his head high and making amends by firing in a corner which Eric Dier slammed into the top corner from close range.

Marek Hamsik forced Hart into a smart save before Rashford scored the winner in the 59th minute, firing home from outside the area to settle Wembley nerves and put England on 20 points, five ahead of second placed Slovakia.

"Marcus Rashford's night? It wasn't so good to begin with but it got better," Dier told the BBC.

"A fantastic show of character after making a mistake to score and then score the winner which got us closer to the World Cup where hopefully he will shine."

Rashford said, of his winning strike: "It was an important goal, we started slowly as a team and me on a personal level too."

Elsewhere in Group F Scotland made light work of Malta to keep their hopes of reaching the play-offs alive, with Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths on target, while Slovenia beat Lithuania 4-0 to join the Scots on 14 points.

Germany destroyed Norway to maintain their 100 per cent record in qualification, hugely improved from their scraped 2-1 win over Czech Republic on Friday.

Mesut Oezil sent the hosts ahead after 10 minutes, brilliantly converting Jonas Hector's cut-back, with Julian Draxler soon adding a second from Oezil's ball.

In the 21st minute Germany struck again through Timo Werner after Thomas Muller played him in, with the forward heading home his second before half-time after another Muller assist.

Half-time substitute Leon Goretzka headed home Draxler's cross to make it five in the 50th minute, with Mario Gomez netting the sixth after good work from Joshua Kimmich as the game closed out.

"It was a lot of fun to play here in Stuttgart, the mood was great," said coach Joachim Loew. "That shows how beautiful football can be, it was a great crowd."

The coach had described himself as "full of anger" with Germany's travelling support during their 2-1 win over Czech Republic on Friday, some of whom criticised striker Werner and were also involved in unsavoury chanting.

"It's great how the fans supported me, it makes me twice as happy to play football. That meant a lot to me," added Werner, who continued his excellent start to his international career by scoring his fifth and sixth goals in eight games for Germany.

The victory put Loew's side on the cusp of qualification with 24 points, but Northern Ireland's 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic stopped them sealing their place in Russia.

West Bromwich Albion duo Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt struck first-half goals to guarantee the Northern Irish at least a play-off spot, while Azerbaijan hammered San Marino 5-1.

In Group E, leaders Poland moved onto 19 points with a comfortable 3-0 win over Kazakhstan thanks to goals from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik and a Robert Lewandowski penalty.

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