Ronaldo hat-trick saves Portugal
Italy one point away from Brazil trip
Netherlands left it late to salvage a draw in Estonia and Portugal needed a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to win, while Spain and Germany had a much easier ride in taking big steps towards World Cup qualification.
England capitalised on dropped points for Montenegro, held 1-1 in Poland, as they marched to a 4-0 home win over Moldova to go level on points at the top of Group H with the Montenegrins.
World champions Spain were 2-0 winners in Finland as they tightened their grip on top spot in Group I, with their cause helped by second-placed France’s 0-0 draw in Georgia.
Group A leaders Belgium stretched their lead with a 2-0 win in Scotland as second and third-placed Balkan rivals Serbia and Croatia shared the points in a 1-1 draw.
A Robin van Persie penalty in stoppage time earned the Dutch a 2-2 draw in Tallinn but the Group D leaders still dropped their first points of the campaign.
Comfortable Group C leaders Germany made light work of second-placed Austria in a 3-0 victory with Miroslav Klose opening the scoring in the 34th minute to equal Gerd Mueller’s record of 68 goals for the country.
Portugal had their big-name player to thank for three points as they had trailed in Belfast before Ronaldo netted three times in the second half to give them a 4-2 victory in a Group F match featuring three red cards.
Group B leaders Italy moved to within one win of qualifying for next year’s finals in Brazil after a nervy 1-0 home victory against second-placed Bulgaria, while in the same group Czech Republic were stunned 2-1 at home by Armenia.
There were dropped points for Group E leaders Switzerland who let slip a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4 with Iceland, allowing second-placed Norway to close the gap on them to four points after they beat Cyprus 2-0.