- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Defending champion Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Ireland on Wednesday in World Cup qualifying.

European champion Spain, England and the Netherlands maintained their perfect records.

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

Vincenzo Iaquinta put Italy in front in the 10th minute, redirecting a pass that Fabio Grosso slid across the goalmouth.

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 twice 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 atop 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 minute, but Xabi Alonso equalized on a penalty kick in the 62nd after defender Ibrahim Uzulmez blocked the ball with his hand during a rough challenge just in front of the net.

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-Herzegovina in Group 5.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 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 minute, but substitute Andriy Shevchenko tied it 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 after Steven Gerrard 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 Kazakstan 5-1, and Croatia beat Andorra 2-0.

The Netherlands also took a major step toward qualifying for South Africa 2010 with its win in Group 9. The Dutch team has an eight-point lead over Scotland, which beat Iceland 2-1.

In Group 3, Poland routed San Marino 10-0 and remained 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 one 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 even with Switzerland at the top of Group 2. The Swiss beat last-place Moldova 2-0.

The United States remained atop CONCACAF’s final round as Jozy Altidore became the youngest American with an international hat trick in a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago. Making just his fourth international start, Altidore connected in the 13th, 71st and 89th minutes, all three times off passes from Landon Donovan.

Mexico fell at Honduras 3-1, with Carlo Costly scoring twice. Costa Rica beat El Salvador 1-0.

In South America, Argentina took its worst defeat in World Cup qualifying when it wilted 6-1 against Bolivia at high-altitude La Paz. The result eclipsed the 5-0 loss against Colombia in 1993 and ruined the early promise shown under coach Diego Maradona, who had earned three victories in three games with no goals allowed since he took over last November.

Joaquin Botero scored three times, in the 33rd, 56th and 66th minutes, for Bolivia in its first win against Argentina in 12 years.

Brazil moved into second place in South American qualifying with a 3-0 victory over Peru, one of the weaker teams in the region. The return to the lineup of star forward Kaka and the scoring of Luis Fabiano lifted the five-time world champions. Fabiano had two goals, one on a penalty kick after Kaka was fouled.

Edgar Benitez rescued Paraguay’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador with a last-second goal. Benitez, a substitute, made it 1-1 after latching onto a cross from Salvador Cabanas that caused confusion in front of the net. Ecuador’s goal after 63 minutes was by Cristian Noboa, who headed in Edison Mendez’s free kick.

Chile, playing most of the time one man down, held Uruguay to a 0-0 tie.

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 beat North Korea 1-0 and Saudi Arabia defeated the United Arab Emirates 3-2.

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