Big leads for Ireland, Croatia, Czechs

Croatia and Ireland took command of their European Championship playoff matches with dominant away wins in the first leg Friday.

The Czech Republic also looks headed for the 2012 finals after a 2-0 home victory over Montenegro.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal head into the second leg of their playoff at 0-0, however, after Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo wasted the visitors’ best chances in Sarajevo.

”It’s a good result but it’s dangerous over two legs because we didn’t get the away win we deserved,” said Portugal coach Paulo Bento. His team was the most high-profile country failing to automatically qualify from the group stage.

Croatia took revenge for its quarterfinal loss on penalty kicks to Turkey at Euro 2008 by routing the Turks 3-0 in Istanbul, with Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka scoring.

”It is almost impossible to qualify now,” Turkey coach Guus Hiddink said.

Captain Robbie Keane scored twice in Ireland’s 4-0 win against Estonia, which had both center backs ejected.

”It should be all over,” Keane said. ”You can’t take anything for granted but if we don’t qualify, we’ll be devastated.”

Vaclav Pilar and Tomas Sivok were the second-half scorers for the Czechs, who are in excellent shape to maintain their record of reaching every European Championship since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

The second legs are Tuesday.