Soccer-Dutch drop points, Ronaldo treble rescues Portugal-20130907

Sonia Oxley
(Blank Headline Received)
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with teammates Joao Moutinho (L) and Miguel after scoring against Northern Ireland during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Windsor Park Stadium in Belfast September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

By Sonia Oxley

LONDON (Reuters) - Netherlands left it late to salvage a draw in Estonia and Portugal needed a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to win, while Spain and Germany had a much easier ride in taking big steps towards World Cup qualification.

England capitalised on dropped points for Montenegro, held 1-1 in Poland, as they marched to a 4-0 home win over Moldova to go level on points at the top of Group H with the Montenegrins.

World champions Spain were 2-0 winners in Finland as they tightened their grip on top spot in Group I, with their cause helped by second-placed France's 0-0 draw in Georgia.

Group A leaders Belgium stretched their lead with a 2-0 win in Scotland as second and third-placed Balkan rivals Serbia and Croatia shared the points in a 1-1 draw.

A Robin van Persie penalty in stoppage time earned the Dutch a 2-2 draw in Tallinn but the Group D leaders still dropped their first points of the campaign.

Comfortable Group C leaders Germany made light work of second-placed Austria in a 3-0 victory with Miroslav Klose opening the scoring in the 34th minute to equal Gerd Mueller's record of 68 goals for the country.

Portugal had their big-name player to thank for three points as they had trailed in Belfast before Ronaldo netted three times in the second half to give them a 4-2 victory in a Group F match featuring three red cards.

Group B leaders Italy moved to within one win of qualifying for next year's finals in Brazil after a nervy 1-0 home victory against second-placed Bulgaria, while in the same group Czech Republic were stunned 2-1 at home by Armenia.

There were dropped points for Group E leaders Switzerland who let slip a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4 with Iceland, allowing second-placed Norway to close the gap on them to four points after they beat Cyprus 2-0.