Germany stunned by North Macedonia in first World Cup qualifying loss since 2001

North Macedonia’s Eljif Elmas, right, celebrates his late winner in Germany (AP)
22:44pm, Wed 31 Mar 2021
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Germany suffered a first World Cup qualifying defeat since being thrashed 5-1 by England 20 years ago following a shock 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia.

Eljif Elmas struck five minutes from time to secure a major upset in Duisburg and move the visitors level on six points with Joachim Low’s side in Group J.

The four-time world champions had been unbeaten in 33 successive World Cup qualifiers – dating back to the visit of Sven Goran Eriksson’s England to Munich in September 2001 – and looked to have salvaged a point after Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty cancelled out Goran Pandev’s opener.

Armenia are the surprise early front runners in that group after maintaining their 100 per cent start by mounting a late comeback to stun 10-man Romania with a 3-2 win.

A second-half double from Alexandru Cicaldau overturned Eduard Spertsyan’s debut goal to give the visitors the lead in Yerevan but, after George Puscas was dismissed for a dangerous challenge on Andre Calisir, Varazdat Haroyan levelled four minutes from time before Tigran Barseghyan won it with an 89th-minute penalty.

Iceland picked up their first qualifying points by defeating Liechtenstein 4-1 thanks to goals from Birkir Saevarsson, Birkir Bjarnason and Victor Palsson, plus a penalty from Runar Mar Sigurjonsson. Yanik Frick claimed the home team’s consolation.

Spain moved top of Group B thanks to a 3-1 success over Kosovo.

Goals from Dani Olmo and Manchester City forward Ferran Torres put Luis Enrique’s men in control in Seville before Besar Halimi briefly pulled one back.

Gerard Moreno quickly restored the two-goal advantage to help the hosts make it seven points from a possible nine and leapfrog Sweden, albeit having played a game more.

Greece and Georgia remain winless in that group following a draw in Thessaloniki. Otar Kakabadze’s 76th-minute own goal put the Greeks in front but Khvicha Kvaratskhelia levelled just two minutes later.

England tightened their grip on Group I after Harry Maguire’s late winner spared John Stones’ blushes and secured a narrow 2-1 success over Poland.

Maguire powered home five minutes from time after Stones’ error allowed Brighton midfielder Jakub Moder to cancel out Harry Kane’s penalty.

Hungary climbed above Poland into second after goals from Attila Fiola, Daniel Gazdag, Laszlo Kleinheisler and Loic Nego earned a 4-1 win over pointless Andorra, who grabbed a stoppage-time consolation thanks to Marc Pujol’s spot-kick.

San Marino are also yet to register a point having conceded to Rey Manaj and Myrto Uzuni in a 2-0 loss to Albania.

World champions France sit four points clear at the top of Group D after Antoine Griezmann secured a 1-0 success over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

Ukraine are second but were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Kazakhstan after Serikzhan Muzhikov’s second-half strike wiped out Roman Yaremchuk’s opener.

Italy maintained their perfect record in Group C thanks to a Stefano Sensi strike and a late penalty from Ciro Immobile in a 2-0 win over Lithuania in Vilnius.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland and Bulgaria collected their first points of the campaign courtesy of a goalless draw in Belfast.

Denmark seized control of Group F after a double from Andreas Olsen contributed to a thumping 4-0 victory away to Austria.

Joakim Maehle and Tottenham midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg were also on target in Vienna as the Danes made it three wins from as many games.

Scotland occupy second after kick-starting their campaign with a resounding 4-0 success over Faroe Islands in which Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn claimed a brace.

Goals from Che Adams and Ryan Fraser completed the scoring in Glasgow as Steve Clarke’s side built on successive draws.

In the other match, Israel came from behind to defeat Moldova 4-1.

Catalin Carp put the hosts in front but Eran Zahavi levelled just before the break and, after Ion Nicolaescu was sent off for violent conduct, strikes from Manor Solomon, Munas Dabbur and Bibras Natcho completed an emphatic scoreline.

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