Michael Essien made his comeback to international football in Friday’s World Cup qualifiers, appearing for his nation for the first time since suffering injury in the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2010. Coming on after 55 minutes, he played his part on a successful afternoon for his country as they beat Zambia 2-1, making it through to the play-off stage which will decide which five African countries travel to Brazil next summer.

Our signing from Porto last weekend, Christian Atsu came on at the same time as Essien. The score was 1-0 at that point with Ghana doubling their lead before Zambia pulled one back.

Belgium are on the verge of qualification for the World Cup finals following a 2-0 win in Scotland. Thibaut Courtois kept the clean sheet and Kevin De Bruyne also played the full game and impressed, but Eden Hazard was reported an injury doubt with an Achilles problem in the build-up to the game and didn’t feature. Romelu Lukaku was an unused sub.

The Belgians need a single point from their next game after their closest rivals Croatia drew 1-1 in Serbia. Branislav Ivanovic, the Serbian captain, played the full game but will not be going to Brazil with his side nine points behind second place. Both of the Balkan sides were reduced to 10 men with former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic sent-off for Serbia.

England cruised to an essential victory over Moldova at Wembley – all three Chelsea players in the squad starting. Steven Gerrard began a four-goal haul by drilling in after a Frank Lampard lay-off, with Rickie Lambert netting his second England goal before a goal either side of the break by Danny Welbeck completed the scoring.

Lampard played the full match on his 99th appearance, as did Gary Cahill with Ashley Cole, who had picked up a booking, coming off at half-time. Welbeck had already been shown a yellow card that sees him suspended for Tuesday’s match in Ukraine.

Lampard had a late shot saved but the 4-0 win gives England the lead in their group on goal difference from Montenegro who have played a game more. They are one point ahead of Ukraine.

There was a big shock for Petr Cech and the Czech Republic when after Tomas Rosicky had equalised midway through the second half in Prague, Armenia scored in stoppage time to win 2-1. Despite that set back, a play-off place is still well within the Czechs’ grasp.

Andre Schurrle was an unused sub as Germany beat neighbours Austria 3-0 in Munich with two of the goals coming from Bayern players – Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller. Germany are very well placed to qualify.

At Under-21 level, Andreas Christensen played the whole game in Denmark’s defence as they bear Andorra 6-0 at home. The match was a European Championship qualifier.

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