Harry Maguire’s late winner made it a maximum nine points from three World Cup 2022 qualifiers for England as they overcame Poland 2-1 at Wembley.
Poland presented a much sterner test than the formalities against San Marino and Albania and it looked like England would have to settle for a point until Maguire struck five minutes from time.
England’s impressive first half brought a deserved lead when Harry Kane scored his 34th international goal from the penalty spot in the 19th minute, following Michal Helik’s challenge on Raheem Sterling.
And yet England almost paid the price for a largely average performance after the break as Poland, who were without injured world-class striker Robert Lewandowski, equalised when a dreadful error by Manchester City’s John Stones saw him concede possession on the edge of the area and Jakub Moder beat Nick Pope emphatically.
It was the first goal Pope had conceded in seven England appearances and looked like being costly until Stones made amends by showing superb athleticism to head Phil Foden’s corner into the path of Maguire, who lashed a powerful drive high past Wojciech Szczesny to keep manager Gareth Southgate’s perfect record in these World Cup qualifiers intact.
Meanwhile, North Macedonia stunned four-time world champions Germany as Eljif Elmas’ late goal secured a shock 2-1 win.
Goran Pandev had put North Macedonia ahead in the 2022 World Cup qualifier on the stroke of half-time.
Ilkay Gundogan equalised from the penalty spot early in the second half after Leroy Sane had been fouled.
But North Macedonia, ranked 65th in the world, snatched victory with five minutes remaining when Elmas struck from close range.
Chelsea forward Timo Werner missed a glorious chance to score for Joachim Low’s side before North Macedonia’s winner but somehow fired wide from close range.
It was a first defeat in Group J for Germany and the first goals they had conceded in qualifying.
The loss also ended their 35-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying, stretching back to their 5-1 defeat by England in 2001.
“This is bitterly disappointing,” Low said.
“We were not fresh enough, we made mistakes. When we played quickly we were dangerous but we did not find the tools to be really threatening.
“Overall, it was disappointing to lose like that at home.”
North Macedonia’s win was their second in Group J and means they are second with six points, three behind leaders Armenia with Germany third.
Forward Ferran Torres scored as Spain continued their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 victory against Kosovo.
Dani Olmo opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a fine finish from the edge of the area.
Torres added a second two minutes later, drilling into the bottom-left corner.
Besar Halimi pulled one back for Kosovo but Gerard Moreno headed in a late third.
Victory for Spain means they are top of Group B with seven points from three games.
Antoine Griezmann’s second-half goal was enough to give reigning world champions France a 1-0 victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After a goalless first half, Griezmann opened the scoring on the hour mark with a header from close range.
Benjamin Pavard saw a powerful shot blocked as France pushed for more but in the end they could not add to their lead.
Victory means France are top of Group D with seven points from three games.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris played a huge part in ensuring France took the three points after making a number of fine saves in the first half.
Other results today were Armenia 3, Romania 2; Iceland 4, Liechtenstein 1; Greece 1, Georgia 1; Italy 2, Lithuania 0; Bulgaria 0, Northern Ireland 0; Ukraine 1, Kazakhstan 1; Denmark 4, Austria 0; Israel 4, Moldova 0; Scotland 4, Faroe Islands 0. (BBC)