England under Sam Allardyce was so close to beginning with a scoreless draw, until Adam Lallana played the hero.
Elsewhere, two minnows fought valiantly as one grabbed a point, and 10 teams total opened their World Cup qualifying runs with Noon EDT kickoffs on Sunday.
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Slovakia 0-1 England
A boring first half gave way to an interesting finish after Martin Skrtel was shown a second yellow card to send the hosts down a man. Slovakia had few if any chances, but we headed into four minutes of stoppage time with the score 0-0.
Given 33 minutes with the advantage and the introductions of Dele Alli, Theo Walcott, and Daniel Sturridge, Allardyce did find all three points in a game he described in the run-up as the toughest of the group.
Adam Lallana came very close with an 85th minute strike, but no dice. The game played past the allotted stoppage, and Lallana megged the goalkeeper for a memorable match winner in the 95th minute.
Lithuania 2-2 Slovenia
The hosts scored twice in three minutes when Fiodor Cernych and Vykintas Slivka netted by the 34th minute, and Slovenia responded late through Rene Krhin to provide a thrilling final 13 minutes at LFF Stadium in Vilnius. And it lived up to the billing, as Slovenia captain Bostjan Cesar scored in the third minute of stoppage to pick up a point.
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Kazakhstan 2-2 Poland
Leicester man Bartosz Kapustka lifted Poland ahead after just nine minutes, and Robert Lewandowski added a penalty before halftime that made it look done-and-dusted. But Sergey Khizhnichenko scored in the 51st and 58th minute to give us our first semi-upset of the day.
San Marino 0-1 Azerbaijan
Ruslan Gurbanov’s 45th minute goal was the only marker, as San Marino provided a game challenge to the visitors. For a group with just one non-loss since the calendar hit May 2004, perhaps it’s a start.
Denmark 1-0 Armenia
Christian Eriksen‘s early goal was enough for the Danes against Henrikh Mkhitaryan-less Armenia.