Georgia 0-1 Wales
Wales needed a result against Georgia, but went into the game without national talisman Gareth Bale.
The game started decent enough for the Welsh, and they created chances in the first half but failed to produce anything substantial.
For Wales to secure a much-needed win, they needed a more clinical second half, and they got just that early on.
It took just four minutes after the interval for the deadlock to be broken, with Derby’s Tom Lawrence taking an exquisite touch before drilling in a shot from 25 yards on 49 minutes. Georgia’s goalkeeper Giorgi Loria had no chance.
Wales, now having the advantage they needed, settled into the game. They began to play cautious, keeping 10 men behind the ball at times.
However, despite inviting on some pressure from the home side, Georgia didn’t concern Wales too much, with little in the way of a spark coming from their attacking play.
One great chance did come for Georgia in injury time, with a defence-splitting pass carving Wales open and setting up Otar Kakabadze, who inexplicably chose to cross the ball rather than shooting, harmlessly drilling the ball across the face of the goal.
It was a nervy affair at times, and certainly far from the best Wales performance – not even a shadow of their electric form from Euro 2016 – but manager Chris Coleman won’t mind.
Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova
A crucial game for Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland squad, especially given the win for Wales earlier in the day, they went into the match knowing only the three points would keep them in contention for a place at World Cup 2018.
Clearly invigorated by the pressure, they made quick work of the Moldovan defence, with striker Daryl Murphy opening the scoring inside 2 minutes.
Murphy wasn’t done there though, and on 19 minutes, he added his and Ireland’s second of night.
Against an opposition that didn’t particularly threaten them, Ireland saw out a comfortable and confident second half to finish winners.
With Serbia’s loss to Austria, it sets up a fantastic grandstand finish for Ireland’s match against Wales.
Rest of Europe
Austria 3-2 Serbia
Serbia broke the deadlock early on 11 minutes through Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic, before Schalke’s Guido Burgstaller equalised on 25 minutes.
West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic slammed home a strike into the bottom-left hand corner on 76 minutes to complete the Austrian turnaround, much to the delight of Ireland and Wales fans.
Unwilling to give up on the game, Serbia struck back on 88 minutes through Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, though the lead lasted just two minutes when Arnautovic added his second and restored Austria’s lead.
Italy 1-1 FYR Macedonia
A match which saw veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon wearing the country’s new blue outfield shirt – the first time in his career he has worn his country’s fabled blue – Italy faced little difficulty from Macedonia.
Despite that, it took until 41 minutes for Italy to break through a tough Macedonian defence, with another of the country’s old guard, Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini, providing the goal.
It should have been an easy game for Italy, but a moment of considerable embarrasment came on 78 minutes when Aleksandar Trajkovski equalised for Macedonia.
He plays his club football for Palermo in Italy, and may be a bit sheepish on his return to the country after the international break.
Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel
Israel defender Eitan Tibi opened the scoring for Israel on 21 minutes with his first goal for his country.
That proved to be the only major highlight of the match, which ended in Israel’s favour.
Spain 3-0 Albania
It took just 16 minutes for Spain to open the scoring against Albania through Valencia’s Rodrigo. Real Madrid playmaker Isco doubled Spain’s lead just eight minutes later on 24 minutes.
Thiago Alcantara added a third on 27 mintues, with Albania’s defence simply unable to contain the Spanish attacking play.
Though the first half hour threatened a match that would end with a cricket score, Spain offered little more, wasting several chances.
However, with victory at home and Italy being held by Macedonia, they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Croatia 1-1 Finland
After a quiet first half the game was brought alive in the second with a goal from Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic.
The Croatian’s strike on 59 minutes, a rebound, lifted the home side ahead of Iceland on goal difference in Group I.
That was until the 90th minute, when Finland midfielder Pyry Soiri, who plays his club football for FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk in Belarus, netted to draw the scores level – much to the delight of Icelandic football fans.
Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine
In a match plagued more by bad weather than impressive football, Kosovan defender Leart Paqarada put through his own net on 60 minutes.
Shakhtar’s Taras Stepanenko added a second on 88 minutes, as Ukraine ran out comfortable winners.
Turkey 0-3 Iceland
Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson broke the deadlock on 32 minutes, with the Iceland fans breaking out their much-loved Thunder Clap celebration.
Iceland weren’t finished their either, with Aston Villa’s Birkir Bjarnason slamming home a second on 39 minutes.
If Turkey had a script for the match, it certainly wouldn’t have looked like it did at half time.
It didn’t get any better after the interval either, with Aberdeen defender Kari Arnason adding Iceland’s third on 50 minutes.
Croatia’s late draw with Finland will have been further cause for celebration from the Icelandic fans, who not only saw their team run out confident, assured winners over Turkey but also strengthen their position en route to Russia 2018.