Germany revived their qualifying campaign with a 5-0 victory in Turkey while Northern Ireland held fellow surprise package Belgium, and Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina both won.
Article top media content
Germany revived their UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying campaign on a bittersweet 50th appearance for Saskia Bartusiak, while Northern Ireland secured a valuable point in Belgium.
Having failed to win a UEFA European Women's Championship fixture − or any qualifier at all − for the first time since 1999 when they drew 2-2 with Spain in November, Germany needed victory in Turkey to move level at the top of Group 2. Without Nadine Angerer, Inka Grings, Kim Kulig, Simone Laudehr and Fatmire Bajramaj, not to mention suspended coach Silvia Neid, Germany won 5-0 in Izmir to ensure the 31 March visit of Spain to Mannheim should decide first place and automatic qualification.
Winners of the last five European titles, Germany were two up in 11 minutes when Dzsenifer Maroszan − earning her fourth cap − shot in from 25 metres and then the returning Linda Bresonik's cross was volleyed in by Célia Okoyino da Mbabi. Several more chances went begging before the break, and just before the hour debutant goalkeeper Almuth Schult had to save from Arzu Karabulut.
Eventually Germany stretched away, Bresonik pouncing on a rebound after substitute Anja Mittag had hit the bar and Melanie Behringer scoring twice in the last 14 minutes. However, in the dying moments Bartusiak − captaining Germany on her 50th appearance − was dismissed for a second booking and will miss the game against Spain.
Neid, who now takes her side to the Algarve Cup, said: "We started well, but wasted too many opportunities. Our passing game didn't work at its best and we have to work hard. It was our first game after the winter break, that might be an excuse."
Northern Ireland twice came from behind to draw 2-2 in Belgium and remain in strong Group 3 contention. Belgium knew a win would move them level with leaders Iceland, who they welcome to their Dessel home on 4 April, and at the end of a tight first half they struck when Aline Zeler swept Audrey Demoustier's pass low into the net.
Half-time substitute Catherine O'Hagan made an immediate impact for the visitors, equalising six minutes after the restart, although 18-year-old Tessa Wullaert quickly restored Belgium's advantage with a well-placed volley. However, Julie Nelson's looping free-kick on 83 minutes deceived keeper Sofie Van Houtven to tie the match once again and bring Northern Ireland to within five points of Iceland and three behind Belgium, who have played a game more. UEFA.com will have video reaction from Dessel tomorrow.
Portugal moved to within a point of the Czech Republic and Austria in second place in Group 7 − though both have games in hand − after a 6-0 defeat of Armenia. Playing without the injured Edite Fernandes for the first time in 15 years, Portugal scored through Laura Luis, Carole Costa, Cláudia Neto, Andrea Rodrigues, substitute Melissa Antunes and Sónia Matias in a one-sided game.
Bosnia and Herzegovina followed up November's 6-2 Group 1 win in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with a 3-2 victory in Greece. Their four-goal hero in the first of those games, Lidija Kuliš, starred again as the 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam striker scored twice in the first 21 minutes. Moira Murić's superb lob on the hour made it three but visiting captain Mersiha Ašćerić was then dismissed and two goals from Dimitra Panteliadou so nearly earned Greece a point. Kuliš is now joint-top qualifying scorer on seven goals; her fourth-placed side next go to group leaders Italy on 31 March.