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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, England Win to Lead Groups

TORSHAVN, Faeroe Islands -- Russia confidently demolished the Faeroe Islands 3-0 in its World Cup qualifier Wednesday to stay top of European Group 1.

Another goal from red-hot striker Michael Owen and a late strike by Robbie Fowler enabled England to scrape a 2-0 victory over a hard-working Albania also Wednesday, but it was still enough to send Sven Goran Eriksson's team to the top of Group 9.

In the Faeroe Islands, striker Vladimir Beschastnykh scored twice in the first half to give Russia the upper hand in a game it dominated.

After scoring his first goal from a header after a corner in the 19th minute, Beschastnykh picked up a pass from fellow forward Marat Izmailov 11 minutes later to slam the ball past helpless Faeroes goalkeeper Jakub Mikkelsen.

In the second half, the Russian attacks wore off, and the plucky Faeroese almost scored on a couple of occasions, but their fate was sealed in the 88th minute as Alexander Shirko broke loose on his own to score a decisive third goal.

"It is absolutely no disgrace to lose to a team like Russia," said Faroes coach and former Danish international Allan Simonsen. "The Russian team is the best we have ever seen from abroad on these islands."

Russian coach Oleg Romantsev said: "We have still not qualified yet; we absolutely have to win our last match against Switzerland in Moscow on Oct. 6.

"I thought our team put up a fantastic performance, but we have still not made it to the finals yet."

The Faeroe Islands' only victories so far in Group 1 have been against Luxembourg -- 2-0 away in March and 1-0 at home last Saturday.

England predictably came down to earth in St. James' Park after its amazing 5-1 victory in Germany on Saturday, and led only after Owen's clever volley from a Paul Scholes through ball in the 44th minute.

The English were unable to reproduce any of the attacking verve that ripped through Germany in Munich, and not until Fowler's deft chip two minutes from time were the Albanians subdued.

The three points took England above Germany on goal difference and if it beats Greece at Old Trafford in its final game Oct. 6 -- barring a minimum seven-goal win over Finland for Germany -- it will win the group and qualify for the finals, leaving Germany to enter the playoffs.

England began as it had left off in Munich -- full of running and attacking ideas -- but could not turn its early chances into goals.

Nick Barmby twice went close and Paul Scholes hooked a shot over the bar in the first 10 minutes.

England had a fright at the other end when defender Ashley Cole and Albania striker Altin Rraklli went down in a heap in the penalty area in the 15th minute, but the referee waved play on.

Albania, composed and skilful on the ball, was clearly not intimidated by the occasion and forced some important tackles from Sol Campbell.

Owen skied another chance on the half hour, but just when a goalless first half looked likely, Owen struck, running between two defenders to volley home a superbly flighted ball from Scholes.

A disappointing Emile Heskey was replaced by Liverpool teammate Fowler in the 55th minute, and he should have scored straightway but hit a weak flick-shot that Foto Strakosha turned round the post.

Steve McManaman soon replaced Barmby and proceeded to give the ball away at will as England began to look ragged.

David Seaman, who had been reassuring all night, had to come to the rescue in the 78th minute when he tipped over a searing shot by Edvin Murati, and then a hanging cross from the right from substitute Devis Mukaj.

Fowler finally came good in the 88th minute, picking up the ball outside the area, beating two defenders and calmly chipping the advancing Albanian keeper.

The St. James' Park crowd's cheer was more in relief than celebration, but now qualification is in England's hands and the nature of the victory could soon be forgotten.