Ikechi Anya

Associated Press

UEFA wrap: Germany, England qualify for the World Cup

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Northern Ireland 1-3 Germany

Not that it was ever in doubt, but Germany will officially have the opportunity to defend its crown as they qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland.

Sebastian Rudy scored an absolute howitzer from extremely far out just two minutes into the game, and that set the tone as the Germans controlled 74% of the possession to ease their way through. Sandro Wagner struck in the 21st minute and young Josh Kimmich finished things off for the Germans with four minutes left in regulation, while Northern Ireland grabbed a consolation in stoppage time through Charlton striker Josh Magennis.

Germany tops Group C by eight points with still one match remaining, while Northern Ireland has secured the second spot, leaving them likely to make the playoff round on 13 points.

England 1-0 Slovakia

Harry Kane continued his blistering form, smashing England into the 2017 World Cup with one swift boot four minutes into stoppage time to give his country a thrilling 1-0 victory at home. Kyle Walker stole the ball with the visitors switched off as time ran down, and he crossed to his Spurs teammate Kane who beat Meha Mevlja in the box to poke home.

The home side was poor at times, holding 67% possession but only putting five shots on target of their 17 attempts on net.

The result leaves England six points clear at the top of Group F with one match remaining, locking them into the top spot. Scotland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will now all duke it out for a second place finish.

Scotland 1-0 Slovakia

Scotland picked up an absolutely massive goal as they chase a playoff spot. Derby County striker Chris Martin, a second-half substitute, forced a Martin Skrtel own-goal in the 89th minute, giving Scotland all three points and putting them in pole position for the 2nd spot in Group F.

Slovakia had been playing a man down since the 23rd minute when Robert Mak was sent off for a second yellow, correctly booked for a pathetic dive in the box under no contact. Still, the hosts were unable to grab control of the match, finishing with just 50% of the possession despite the long man advantage. Eventually, the ball came down the right flank and great work by Leigh Griffiths to keep play alive despite going to ground allowed Ikechi Anya to cross the ball for Martin on the doorstep, and his pressure saw the ball cut off the sliding Skrtel into the back of the net.

The win puts Scotland into 2nd place in Group F, two points above their opponents Slovakia and three above Slovenia with one match to go. They face Slovenia in the final round and do not have a goal differential advantage, so only a win would ensure them a spot in the playoff round.

Armenia 1-6 Poland

(Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP)

Poland moved onto the doorstep of automatic qualification as they pummeled Armenia 6-1. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick and got help from Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kamil Glick, and Rafal Wolski to pile it on. The win puts Poland three points ahead of Denmark with one to play, although the teams are even on goal differential, so there could be some final day drama should Poland suffer an unlikely slip against Montenegro.

Montenegro 0-1 Denmark

Denmark kept pace with Poland at the top of Group E, leaving them three points back of the top spot heading in to the final day. It wasn’t as comfortable as it could have been, but an early Christian Eriksen (who else?) goal in the 16th minute saw them through. It was a superb goal, if not glittery, as Eriksen was under pressure from three defenders but surprised goalkeeper Danijel Petkovíc with the shot as it slid by for the lead and eventual winner.

While they’re three back of the automatic qualifying spot, Denmark will also be looking over its shoulder, as Montenegro sits three back of them and two back in goal differential, and playing for their World Cup lives in the final game.

Azerbaijan 1-2 Czech Republic

San Marino 0-8 Norway

Romania 3-1 Kazakhstan

Malta 1-1 Lithuania

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: Late surge wins it for Hornets

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  • Two late goals from Deeney
  • Villa led twice
  • Cissokho sent off
  • Villa now lost 11-straight

Watford beat 10-man Aston Villa 3-2 at Vicarage Road on Saturday in a wild encounter in Hertfordshire.

Aston Villa twice took the lead twice through Ciaran Clark and Jordan Ayew but Watford’s Almen Abdi had equalized right on half time. Until Aly Cissokho was sent off in the second half things were looking pretty for Villa but two late Troy Deeney goals — Deeney is a fan of Villa’s arch-rivals, Birmingham City — turned the game on its head.

Watford have now secured their Premier League status for another season and sit on 44 points, while Villa remain bottom on 16 points and have now lost a club record 26 games this season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford started the better of the two teams and pinned Villa back into their own half.

Odion Ighalo cut inside and had his effort saved by Mark Bunn and then the Hornets came agonizingly close to taking the lead.

Ben Watson controlled the ball and sent a magnificent volley towards the top corner but it hit the crossbar and bounced out. So close.

Moments later, though, dominant Watford were behind. An Ashley Westwood corner from the left found Clark and he headed home. 1-0 to Villa as they converted their first chance of the game.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Villa nearly doubled their lead just before the break but Jordan Ayew sent his stooping ahead against the post and moments later it was 1-1. A free kick right on half time saw Abdi step up and curl the ball up and over the wall and into the bottom corner. Hornets level.

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At the start of the second half Villa came flying out of the traps and Ayew put them back ahead with a fine finish. 2-1.

Rudy Gestede then went close as Villa closed in on just a fourth win of the season but then a potential second away win of the season was thrown into jeopardy.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ikechi Anya raced free and last man Cissokho was adjudged to have fouled him and received a straight red card. Cissokho looked to have got a little on the ball and Villa could feel hard done by to be down to 10-men.

It took Watford until the 90th minute to make that advantage count as Deeney scored twice in three minutes to spark wild scenes at Vicarage Road and hand the Hornets a win which secured their PL status for another season.

Watford 1-2 Stoke City: Walters keys Potters’ road win

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  • Walters with goal, assist
  • Joselu also scores
  • Deeney tallies late

Jon Walters and Joselu stakes Stoke City to a lead it would not relinquish, as the Potters moved into 7th place with a 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Troy Deeney scored late to bring some drama to the proceedings, but Stoke picked up all three points. Watford sits 14th, eight points ahead of the drop.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Giannelli Imbula started the move that led to Stoke’s opener, dribbling up the pitch before the ball found its way to Phil Bardsley streaking down the right. The back crossed through the six, and Manuel Britos whiffed on his clearance. Walters doesn’t often miss from six feet, and didn’t this time.

Stoke scored again early in the second when Heurelho Gomes‘ clearance was wrangled by Walters, who sent in Joselu for the goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The game seemed destined for nothing until Deeney pulled a goal back with five minutes left in the match. Ikechi Anya sent a cross to the big forward about six yards out, and it might as well be called the Deeney Zone as he wasn’t missing that.

Three things we learned from Crystal Palace’s win at Watford

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WATFORD — Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road on Sunday as Alan Pardew‘s men continued their incredible record away from home.

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Yohan Cabaye‘s second half penalty kick was enough to grab all three points for the Eagles, as Watford lost at home for the first time this season.

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Here’s three things we learned from a glorious afternoon in the sun in Hertfordshire, England.

EAGLES GRIND OUT WIN

Alan Pardew might not have been overjoyed by Palace’s performance away at Watford, but he’ll be happy with the three points. If Crystal Palace are going to achieve Pardew’s lofty target of challenging for a Europa League spot by finishing in the top six, wining away at places like Vicarage Road is crucial. Palace’s incredible away record under Pardew since he took charge in January last season (nine wins and three defeats in 12 games) continues as they failed to rip Watford open on the counter but did what they needed to do 20 minutes from time when Wilfried Zaha won a penalty kick which Yohan Cabaye converted for the win.

[ MORE: Pardew thinking big as superb away form continues ]

The only criticism you could have had of Palace on Sunday was that the winning margin could’ve been more comfortable. With Patrick Bamford and Connor Wickham both missing, Dwight Gayle was given a run out up top and after Padrew gesticulated angrily at the speedy forward in the first half for not tracking his man, the 25-year-old hit the angle of the bar and post in the 59th minute when he should’ve scored, missed another effort from close range after Cabaye’s opener, then flashed another effort wide of the post. After this win, Palace sit in sixth spot on 12 points, just four points off top spot. Pardew’s plan is coming together nicely after another textbook away-day display.

HUMBLE HORNETS 

Watford’s fine start to life back in the Premier League has flown under the radar. The Hornets have only been in the PL on two separate occasions before — relegated at the first time of asking on both occasions in  1999 and 2006 — but in the first seven games of their third venture in the PL, they have shown they’re capable of at least staying up with two wins, three draws and two defeats to their name. With the pace of Ikechi Anya on the left flank, Etienne Capoue and Jose Manuel Jurado’s trickery in midfield and the bullish duo of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney up top, Spanish coach Quique Sanchez Flores has a solid base to build from but you got the feeling his side just didn’t believe enough in their defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday. Jurado hit the crossbar with a curling free kick in the second half but Deeney headed the rebound over, then in the 57th minute a glorious chance arrived but the Hornets left a loose ball in the box to each other as the moment came and went.

Flores has already said in this young season that he told his side to hold off from a gun-ho approach and in previous 0-0 home draws with Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, that was visible. To take that next step and not only solidify their place in the Premier League but push up to midtable, Watford need to stop being humble and replicate the likes of Swansea City, Crystal Palace and Southampton in becoming PL mainstays. With the players and financial backing they have, it’s attainable. They just need to be braver.

DEJA VU FOR WILF

Coming off the bench in the 62nd minute, Pardew grabbed hold of Zaha just before he entered the pitch and looked as if he was bellowing inspirational words into the young wingers ear. Its been a topsy-turvy return to Selhurst Park for Zaha after his big money move to Manchester United in 2013 didn’t pan out.

Nine minutes later Zaha won the penalty kick which won Palace the game. As he ran at Allan Nyom, Watford’s right back looked uneasy and dove into a clumsy tackle with Zaha going away from goal and about to reach the byline. Zaha was booed by Watford’s fans for the rest of the game. They’ve seen this script play out before. During the 2012-13 Championship playoff final between Palace and Watford, Zaha went down (much easier than he did on Sunday) under the challenge of Marco Cassetti. That won Palace a penalty kick at Wembley in the 105th minute of a tense, tight playoff final to decide who would get promoted to the PL. Kevin Phillips duly distracted the spot kick and Palace were promoted, while Watford had to wait another two seasons to reach the top-flight. In the first-ever top-flight meeting between these two teams, lightning struck twice as this was a cruel reminder to Hornets fans of how Zaha and Palace beat them over two years ago.