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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Frustrates Ukraine, Ireland Beats Iran

APZubov, who scored the first goal of the game for Ukraine, racing past Germany's Dietmar Hamann during their World Cup first-leg playoff qualifier in Kiev on Saturday.
LONDON -- Germany, threatened with the humiliation of failing to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time, worked hard for a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in the first leg of its playoff in Kiev on Saturday.

The result gives Germany a slight edge for the return match in Dortmund. The three-time champion has qualified for the finals in each of its 15 attempts.

In other playoffs Saturday, Ireland dominated against Iran in Dublin to win 2-0, while in Ljubljana, Slovenia defeated Romania 2-1 to edge closer to its first World Cup appearance. In Brussels, Belgium beat a 10-man Czech Republic 1-0, and in Vienna, Turkey's World Cup campaign received a boost when it beat Austria 1-0. Turkey has not qualified for the finals since 1954.

The return legs are on Wednesday, except for Iran-Ireland, which is Thursday.

In Kiev, a crowd of 83,500 fans, mainly Ukrainian, watched as Henadiy Zubov opened the scoring from the edge of the box in the 18th minute. Zubov got the ball after Andriy Shevchenko broke the German defensive line with a free kick.

Michael Ballack equalized for Germany 13 minutes later, beating goalie Maxim Levitsky at close range.

Ukraine had several excellent attempts on goal, particularly from Serhiy Shyshchenko and Andriy Shevchenko. Germany was characterized by strong team play, goalie Oliver Kahn's confident performance and Ballack's leadership in numerous dangerous attacks.

"There were many moments to play successfully and win, but we a bit lacked the concluding stage," said Zubov on local television. "We'll have the second leg in Dortmund, so not everything is lost."

Germany was forced into the playoffs after losing 5-1 to England in a World Cup qualifier Sept. 1 and finishing second in its European qualifying group.

In Dublin, Ireland won with goals from a converted Ian Harte penalty and a 20-meter Robbie Keane stunner.

"It's a good start," said Ireland coach Mick McCarthy. "Two-nil at half time, that's the way we look at it now. If they come and attack us we will pick them off. We have got that lead. We are not going out there to sit upon it."

In the 52nd minute, winger Jason McAteer darted into corner of the area and was brought down by Rahman Rezaei. The referee pointed to the spot and, although keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour dived the right way, Harte's penalty had too much power and flew past him.

Ireland scored again soon after the restart when McAteer swung in a free kick from the right and, when it was half cleared, the ball dropped to Keane, whose left-foot shot from 20 meters flashed into the roof of the net.

The Iranians had three good chances in reply, with Irish goalkeeper Shay Given saving twice from Ali Karimi.

Ireland last appeared at the World Cup in 1994, while Iran qualified for France '98, its appearance marked by a 2-1 win over the United States.

In Ljubljana, Slovenia rallied from behind to beat favorite Romania, which played at France '98 and reached the quarterfinals in 1994.

Romania opened the scoring after Marius Niculae clumsily latched onto a cross in the 26th minute and his uncontrolled shot deflected off a defender's foot and looped over goalkeeper Marko Simeunovic into the net.

Slovenia pulled back to level just before halftime through Mile Acimovic, who glanced in a cross with his head from the far side in the 42nd minute.

Sloppiness in front of goal was costly for the Romanians when Milan Osterc drove in the match-winning goal from a difficult angle outside the box.

In Brussels, a first-half goal from Belgian forward Gert Verheyen secured Belgium a 1-0 win against the Czech Republic.

Belgium took early advantage of a momentary Czech weakness in midfield to score on a quick free kick from Sven Vermant, who passed the ball to captain Verheyen, who snapped it past Czech goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek in the 28th minute.

Czech frustration boiled over as Tomas Repka gave Belgian midfielder Bart Goor a nasty elbow in the face, forcing Swiss referee Urs Meier to give Repka a red card, leaving the Czechs with only 10 players going into half time.

In Vienna, a second-half goal from Okan Buruk gave Turkey a 1-0 win against Austria. Buruk tipped in a shot with his left toe from close range in the 60th minute after a slip in the Austrian defense.

The home side went into the match as underdogs and with a team that included none of the nine rebel players who refused to play in their final group qualifying match in Israel because of safety fears.