#FIFAWWC Qualifying Round-Up: Late drama as Portugal hold Belgium

Friday’s World Cup qualifiers featured impressive draws for Wales, Albania and Portugal, the latter becoming the first to deny Belgium victory as stoppage-time brought two goals and a red card.

Belgium dropped their first points in a dramatic Group 6 finish against Portugal, watched by the Red Flames’ record crowd of 7,101. Tessa Wullaert missed a 51st-minute penalty for the home side but they finally took the lead a minute after the 90 through Tina de Caigny. However, that wasn’t the end of the story as 2 minutes later Davina Philtjens was sent off and Dolores Silva levelled from the resulting spot-kick.

In the same group, Italy won the top versus bottom tie 3-1 in Moldova to record a fifth win in a row. Linda Tucceri Cimini’s early effort was added to by an own-goal from Nadejda Colesnicenco. Although Anastasia Toma pulled one back just before the break, Valentina Giacinti restored the Azzurri’s two goal cushion on 76 minutes.

Albania did Scotland and Switzerland in particular a favour, by holding Poland to a surprise 1-1 draw. Albania had lost all five previous games but returned from Wloclawek with a point after Geldona Morina cancelled out Katarzyna Daleszczyk’s very early goal in the last 16 minutes.

Wales held top spot in Group 1 with a goalless draw and strong defensive performance, which frustrated England and the vast majority of the 25,603 crowd.

Over 30,000 saw the Netherlands sink Northern Ireland 7-0 in Group 3, as Lieke Martens struck twice in the first 17 minutes,  Vivianne Miedema and a Sherida Spitse penalty making it 4-0 by the interval. Shanice van de Sanden added the fifth, Spitse netted her second and then Billie Simpson conceded a late own-goal.

Also in Group 3, Republic of Ireland did just enough to see Slovakia 2-1. Leanne Kiernan broke the deadlock in the 69th minute but shortly afterwards as Marie Hourihan own-goal gave the visitors hope of a first point. However, Amber Barrett grabbed a winner with 3 minutes left on the clock.

Iceland replaced Germany as Group 5 leaders after winning 2-0 in Slovenia. Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir and Rakel Hönnudóttir both scored in the first half to take maximum points.

Group 7 leaders Spain made it four straight wins with a 2-0 result in Finland. Irene Paredes netted 11 minutes in and Olga Garcia got the second 5 minutes after the interval. The Finns were reduced to ten players for the last few minutes, Tuija Hyyrynen receiving a second caution.