| Midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos gave Greece a shock 1-0 win over Group VI leaders Spain with a magnificent 20m drive in Zaragoza Saturday. (AFP)
London: Spain, the most consistent qualifiers in European football for a decade, crashed to a shock 0-1 home defeat to Greece in the last and most surprising of Saturday’s 19 European Championship qualifying matches.
Midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos gave Greece their famous Group Six success with stunning shot to inflict a first competitive home defeat on the Spaniards in almost 13 years.
A seven-goal thriller between the Ukraine and Armenia, a last-minute own goal winner for Ireland, a Dutch scoring record for Patrick Kluivert and another laboured draw for Germany were among the other highlights.
But the big shock of the night took place in Zaragoza.
Spain had dominated for most of the first half before Giannakopoulos lashed in his spectacular effort two minutes before the break.
Greece had defender Stelios Venetidis sent off in the 82nd minute but held out to hand Spain their first meaningful home defeat since they went down 1-2 to France in a European championship qualifier in Seville in October 1991.
The result made Serhiy Fyodorov’s injury-time winner for Ukraine even more valuable than it seemed hours earlier when it secured a 4-3 home win over an Armenian side who had twice led.
Spain continue to lead the group on 10 points, but are now just one ahead of both Ukraine and Greece, who meet in Athens on Wednesday.
The showdown between the top two in Group 10 in Basel finished level but only after Russia had fought back from 0-2 down to draw 2-2 with Switzerland. Striker Alexander Frei struck after 14 and 16 minutes to put the Swiss 2-0 up with Russia heading for a third successive qualifying defeat.
But Russian central defender Sergei Ignashevich then also struck twice, the second a controversial penalty, to earn a point.
The unbeaten Swiss remain top, on nine points, ahead of Russia and Ireland, both on seven.
The Irish needed an injury-time own goal by Adrian Aliaj to clinch a 2-1 home win over Albania.
Three-times winners Germany continue to make heavy weather of what looked a reasonably straightforward qualifying Group Five when the draw was made.
Freddie Bobic headed them into a barely-deserved 23rd-minute lead in Glasgow but Scotland, led by former Germany coach Berti Vogts, were well worth the point earned by Kenny Miller’s 69th minute goal.
Germany’s last three qualifiers have seen them scrape past the Faroe Islands 2-1 and draw with Lithuania and Scotland.
However, they remain top on eight points, with a game in hand on Scotland, who also have eight. Lithuania have seven and Iceland, late 2-1 winners over the Faroe Islands, six.
A contender for goal of the day came in Tallinn where Estonian defender Teet Allas met a goalkick 40 metres out and spectacularly shot it back into the net to send Estonia on their way to a 2-0 win over Andorra.
Estonia climbed to second in Group Eight on eight points, three points behind leaders Bulgaria who were held 2-2 in Sofia by Belgium, who have seven points, the same as Croatia.
Austria, joint hosts of the 2008 championship, went down to an embarrassing 0-1 defeat in Moldova — who had lost all four or their previous Group Three qualifiers. Debutant Viorel Frunze got the only goal after an hour.
The Austrians now look out of it on six points, four behind the non-playing Czech Republic and seven behind the Netherlands.
The Dutch beat Belarus 2-0 away, helped by a goal from Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert, who became his country’s all-time leading scorer on 38, overtaking Dennis Bergkamp.
The Dutch opened the scoring with a superb strike from Kluivert’s Barcelona teammate Marc Overmars, who glided past three attempted tackles to shoot from 20 metres into the top far corner two minutes after coming on as a substitute. Group Four continues to provide twists and turns as leaders Latvia fell to their first defeat, Hungary coming from behind to win 3-1 in Budapest.
Latvia cling on to top spot on 10 points but Hungary and Sweden, who thrashed San Marino 6-0 away and have a game in hand, both have eight, with Poland on seven.
It is just as close in a topsy-turvy Group Two, where Denmark’s 1-0 home win over Norway courtesy of an early Jesper Gronkjaer goal and Romania’s 2-0 home success against Bosnia & Montenegro have closed things up.
Denmark and Norway have 10 points, Romania, thrashed 2-5 at home by the Danes in March, nine and Bosnia six.
Turkey returned to the top of Group Seven with a 1-0 away win over Slovakia. They have 12 points, two more than England, who host Slovakia (six) on Wednesday.
France edged closer to qualification despite not playing as their closest rivals Slovenia and Israel drew 0-0 in Group One. The defending champions have 15 points, Slovenia 10 and Israel eight. Cyprus won 2-1 in Malta to move on to seven.