The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia stole the limelight on Matchday 2 of the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 preliminary round, hitting five goals against Luxembourg.
Both sections remain wide open following the second round of games, with six countries in contention to join the 36 highest-ranked qualifying nations in the 14 March group stage draw. In Group 1, hosts FYROM followed up Thursday's 1-1 draw against Lithuania with a resounding 5-1 defeat of Luxembourg in Strumica; a win that propelled them to the top of the standings by a point from their defeated opponents and third-placed Latvia.
Dobrislav Dimovski's side never looked back after Natasha Andonova struck the first of her two goals with a 21st-minute free-kick. Captain Shireta Brahimi, Afrodita Salihi, Andonova again and Gentijana Rochi, in added time, completed a resounding triumph. Luxembourg's reply came courtesy of their captain, Rosangela Settanni, seven minutes from time.
"We played a great game and I think we deserved this win," said Andonova. "We could have won by even more. I expect a good performance in the last match and for us to win the group." It was a verdict with which Luxembourg coach Romain Jean concurred: "Macedonia were better then us and deserved the win," he said.
"They have three really good players − Andonova, Salihi and [Aneta] Georgieva. They were too strong for my young team. We only had two goal attempts and it's very difficult to win a game when you don't shoot."
In the other Group 1 encounter, Latvia won the Baltic derby with Lithuania thanks to Jūlija Sokolova's 13th-minute strike. Sokolova raced through Lithuania's defence to score from close range and give her side hope of topping the pool. "That was not a normal match for us, because we were playing against our neighbours and big rivals," said Latvia coah Didzis Matīss.
"The girls put in a great effort after a disappointing start and the loss against Luxembourg in the first game. We played much better. I saw a team with a great will to win and that is the most important thing. We came here with a dream to qualify for the next round and now we can make that dream come true."
In Malta, Group 2 remains wide open after Armenia were unable to follow up on their defeat of the Faroe Islands with another victory and instead were held to a goalless draw by Georgia. Despite creating numerous chances in the first half and having the majority of possession, Armenia, inspired by captain Gayane Kostanyan, could find no way through the Georgian rearguard in windy conditions.
"Clearly I am not happy with the performance of my team in these two matches," said Georgia head coach Teimuraz Svanadze, whose side prop up the section with one point. "We were unlucky to lose to a last-gasp goal against Malta in the first match, but we must definitely win our last game."
Hosts Malta, meanwhile, slumped to their first defeat of the tournament, losing 2-0 to the Faroe Islands, who were looking to make amends for their defeat by Armenia on Thursday. Veteran skipper Malena Josephsen broke the deadlock with a 26th-minute header, with Olga Kristina Hansen putting the issue beyond doubt late on.
The Faroes are second in the group, a point behind Armenia, and level with third-placed Malta, who face the leaders on Tuesday. "We were unlucky to lose our first match against Armenia when we had most of the play," said Faroe Islands head coach Álvur Hansen. "Today I am very happy with the result and obviously we plan to win our last match against Georgia."