Brussels, Belgium – Belgium took another step toward qualifying for the 2014 World Cup on Friday as goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Marouane Fellaini gave the team a 2-1 win over Serbia in UEFA Group A qualifying.
Belgium entered the day level on points with Croatia, but the win, combined with a surprising 1-0 home defeat for Croatia against Scotland, moves Belgium three points clear at the top of the group with three games remaining.
Serbia came into the match needing three points to get back into the discussion at the top of the group, but the visitors fell behind after 13 minutes when Jan Vertonghen's cross was turned into the net by the head of De Bruyne.
A corner kick on the hour mark allowed Belgium to double its lead as De Bruyne floated the ball into the area, where Fellaini got up to nod the ball inside the right post in traffic.
Aleksandar Kolarov made things interesting in the final minutes when he scored on a free kick in the 87th minute for Serbia, but Belgium held on to move closer to its first World Cup appearance since 2002.
Scotland pulled off a huge surprise at Croatia with a first-half goal from Robert Snodgrass, providing the Scots with their first victory in seven qualifiers.
Italy was only able to move one point further ahead of Bulgaria at the top of Group B as Mario Balotelli was sent off in the second half of a 0-0 draw at Czech Republic, while Malta topped Armenia, 1-0, in a battle of the bottom two sides in the group.
Ireland and Austria both secured three big points as they battle for the second position behind Group C leaders Germany.
Austria tallied two goals in the first half and held on for a 2-1 triumph over Sweden, and Robbie Keane netted a hat trick as Ireland coasted past the Faroe Islands, 3-0, leaving both Austria and Ireland level on 11 points in second place.
Albania was poised to climb atop Group E, but the team conceded an 87th-minute equalizer to Norway's Tom Hogli in a 1-1 draw, leaving them one point back of Switzerland, which faces Cyprus on Saturday. Slovenia notched a 4-2 at Iceland on Friday as the team came from a goal down after 30 minutes to claim three points and dent Iceland's hopes of qualification.
Helder Postiga's ninth-minute goal held up as Portugal claimed a vital 1-0 win over Russia to move two points clear at the summit in Group F, although the Russians have two games in hand. Luxembourg and Azerbaijan played to a 1-1 draw in Friday's other Group F match.
Bosnia-Herzegovina remains three points clear at the top of Group G after a 5-0 thumping of 10-man Latvia with all five goals coming after halftime. Greece was able to remain within three points of the leaders with a 1-0 victory at Lithuania, while Slovakia earned a 1-1 draw at Liechtenstein.
Montenegro squandered a big chance to go five points clear of second-place England in Group H as the club sustained a 4-0 home defeat to Ukraine, which moves to within three points of Montenegro. England sits two points back of the leaders with a game in hand. Poland also could have moved closer to the top, but a disappointing 1-1 draw at Moldova sees the Poles five points from the top.
The lone match in Group I saw Finland down Belarus, 1-0, with the lone goal arriving in the 57th minute from Kasper Hamalainen.