Euro 2012 Qualifying Roundup, Mar. 29

The Netherlands survived a scare Tuesday to beat Hungary 5-3 and maintain its 100 percent record in European Championship qualifying, while Spain stretched its perfect start to Group I with a 3-1 win at Lithuania.

Hungary scored twice in five minutes at the start of the second half to lead 2-1. Wesley Sniejder equalized and veteran striker Ruud van Nistelrooy put the Dutch ahead, but Hungary playmaker Zoltan Gera made it 3-3 with 15 minutes left to again threaten the Group E leader.

Dirk Kuyt secured victory with two goals in the last 12 minutes to take the Netherlands to 18 points from six matches, nine clear of Hungary and on the verge of a place in next year’s tournament. Sweden shares second place with Hungary after beating Moldova 2-1.

World Cup holder and defending European champion Spain won its fifth straight qualifier with another dominant midfield performance by midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who scored the opening goal.

Lithuania surprisingly equalized in the 57th but Spain triumphed with an own goal and an effort by Juanma Mata.

But with only 10 Euro 2012 qualifying matches, several other teams were in friendly action.

Australia scored two goals in four second-half minutes to rally and beat a much-changed Germany side 2-1, while a second-string England side conceded an injury-time equalizer to draw 1-1 with Ghana at Wembley in the teams’ first ever meeting.

World Cup semifinalist Uruguay scored three times in the first half to win 3-1 at Ireland, Italy won 2-0 at European Championship co-host Ukraine and France drew 0-0 with Croatia.

The Netherlands, which opened the scoring in the 13th through Robin van Persie, is still on course to qualify but coach Bert van Marwijk lamented the defensive frailties of a side that reached last year’s World Cup final.

”You need to have discipline,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. ”We started well, scored a quick goal but then things changed. We kept losing the ball unnecessarily.”

The Netherlands, which last week beat Hungary 4-0 with its crisp passing game, produced a disjointed performance and struggled to counter the a well-organized Hungarian attack.

Spain’s quick-passing game was slowed by a poor pitch in Kaunas, but the favorite was always in control.

”It was an important result today, especially with the state of the field, which was woeful,” Xavi said after helping Spain to its 11th straight competitive win. ”We reached our objective, so we can go forward happy … the team played a complete game.”

Xavi’s shot hit Andrius Skerla and deflected into the net to put Spain ahead in the 19th minute, and the World Cup holder created several more chances through Fernando Llorente’s ability to hold up the ball.

Goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas again saved from Llorente at the start of the second half before Marius Stankevicius fired through a crowd of players from outside the area for a 57th-minute equalizer.

But Spain quickly responded and Xavi set Mata free down the wing before Lithuania defender Tomas Razanauskas guided the substitute’s pass into his own goal in the 70th. Mata, who had replaced Cazorla, then slipped a low shot from the left past Karcemarskas.

Defender Sergio Ramos came on in the 90th, the 24-year-old Real Madrid fullback becoming the youngest Spain player to reach 75 caps.

Spain’s 15 points puts it six ahead of the Czech Republic, which beat Liechtenstein 2-0.

Belgium beat Azerbaijan 4-1 to keep second place in Group A by a point from Turkey, which beat Austria 2-0. In Group C, Serbia drew 1-1 at Estonia and shares second place with a Slovenia side that drew 0-0 at Northern Ireland.

Adrian Mutu scored twice as Romania beat Luxembourg 3-1 for its first Group D win, while Israel won 1-0 at Georgia in Group F.

Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez had given a reshuffled Germany the lead in Moenchengladbach but David Carney leveled in the 61st and David Wilkshire converted a penalty as the Socceroos beat Germany for the first time in four matches.

Australia had lost the previous three, conceding at least three goals in each match.

”We never expected such a result,” said Holger Osieck, Australia’s German coach. ”I have great respect for Germany, regardless who is on field, they are all excellent players. We wanted to play well but we never though about such a result.”

France’s six-match winning streak came to an end as Karim Benzema missed an easy chance and Adil Rami hit the post in against Croatia at Stade de France, while Giuseppe Rossi and Alessandro Matri scored in a 2-0 win for Italy – which played 16 minutes with 10 men after substitute Davide Astori was sent off.

FC Porto midfielder Ruben Micael scored twice on his first international start to give Portugal a 2-0 victory over Finland in Aveiro, but Russia’s dismal form continued with a 1-1 draw against lowly Qatar.

Denmark won 2-1 at Slovakia, Greece drew 0-0 at Poland

Matias Fernandez controlled midfield and scored a free kick to help Chile beat Colombia 2-0 in a friendly held in The Hague, which also hosted Peru-Ecuador.

Peru goalkeeper Salomon Libman saved a penalty as his 10-man team easily held Ecuador to a 0-0 draw.

The South American sides’ matches were part of their preparations for the Copa America, which starts July 1 in Argentina