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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Gives Macedonia 3-0 Thrashing

APAndrei Arshavin rejoicing after his goal against Macedonia during Saturday's Group E qualifier at Lokomotiv stadium. Russia will face England on Wednesday.
Russia beat Macedonia 3-0 in a Euro 2008 Group E qualifier Saturday to stay on track for next year's finals.

In other qualifiers Saturday, Italy drew 0-0 with France in a World Cup final repeat, Germany and England notched easy wins, and 10-man Spain was frustrated by a 1-1 draw in Iceland.

The battle to reach the finals in Austria and Switzerland also saw the Netherlands beat Bulgaria 2-0, while the day's other upset left Turkey with only a 2-2 draw in Malta.

Much credit for Russia's victory went to reserve goalie Vyacheslav Malafeyev, who saved a 70th-minute penalty from Igor Mitreski to preserve a 1-0 lead just after replacing Vladimir Gabulov.

Gabulov was sent off in the 69th minute for a professional foul on Velice Sumulikoski in his own penalty box.

Vasily Berezutsky put the home side ahead five minutes into the game, slotting the ball in at the far post following Andrei Arshavin's free kick.

Russia could easily have doubled its lead before the break, but Vladimir Bystrov missed an open goal from a tight angle in the 21st minute, and Macedonia keeper Petar Milosevski made a fine diving save to deny Dmitry Sychyov a few minutes later.

Sychyov wasted another golden chance early in the second half, shooting wide from five meters, and Roman Pavlyuchenko hit the post before Malafeyev's heroics.

Russia captain Andrei Arshavin made it 2-0 with a great solo effort in the 83rd minute, and Sevilla striker Alexander Kerzhakov, a second-half substitute, made sure of the win three minutes later.

The victory ultimately kept Russia in second place in the group, with 18 points from eight matches, as England and Croatia both won their matches.

Russia coach Guus Hiddink said he was pleased with the outcome, but added that his side had been a bit lucky to escape unharmed.

"There's an unwritten law in football that says if you don't make the score 2-0 or 3-0 before halftime, you're going to have problems," the Dutchman told a news conference. "We were almost punished with that penalty kick. Fortunately, Malafeyev saved the game for us."

The showcase game in Europe on Saturday was at Milan's San Siro stadium, where 2006 World Cup winner Italy took on the French in a game that provided plenty of tension and passion.

The best chance fell to Filippo Inzaghi, whose goals won this year's Champions League final for AC Milan against Liverpool, but whose touch deserted him on his home ground when he hit the bar at the half-hour mark.

Chances also eluded teammates Alessandro Del Piero and captain Fabio Cannavaro, while Nicolas Anelka had the best opportunities for the visitors, who finished up by putting a small dent in Italy's qualifying hopes.

France coach Raymond Domenech, who watched from the stands due to a UEFA touchline ban, retained his side's top spot in Group B with 19 points.

Scotland, which beat Lithuania 3-1 in Glasgow, is one point behind, while Italy slipped to third with 17 points after eight matches.

The Germans showed the rest of Europe how it should be done. Their 2-0 Group D win over Wales in Cardiff gave them 22 points from a possible 24 and at least one foot in the finals.

Striker Miroslav Klose, top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, claimed both the goals, a neat low finish after five minutes and a second-half header.

The Czech Republic staked their claim to the runners-up slot, beating 10-man San Marino 3-0 to move clear of Ireland, who conceded a stoppage-time goal to draw 2-2 in Slovakia.

England coach Steve McClaren could afford a smile after his formerly struggling side trounced Israel 3-0 at Wembley stadium to move up to third in Group E.

Goals from winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, striker Michael Owen and teenage defender Micah Richards will increase the pressure on McClaren before Wednesday's key game in northwest London against Russia.

Group leader Croatia stayed on course for the finals, with Brazilian-born striker Eduardo da Silva scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Estonia.