GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Belgium moved closer to a place at the World Cup with a 2-0 victory against Scotland on Friday that sent the Red Devils five points clear at the top of Group A.
Unbeaten in its eight matches, Belgium leads second-place Croatia by five points and now needs only a draw when the two sides meet next month to secure its spot at the finals in Brazil. Croatia was held to a 1-1 draw against Serbia in the Balkan derby.
Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas scored the goals for a Belgium side that was playing without its injured playmaker Eden Hazard. The visitors got off to a promising start in Glasgow with Christian Benteke missing the target from close range from Kevin De Bruyne's corner.
Belgium created several chances and finally found the net after 38 minutes when Defour fired the ball past Scotland keeper David Marshall. Scotland had a good chance to level with 10 minutes to go when Jordan Rhode dragged his shot past the post from close range and the visitors doubled their lead in the 89th when Benteke's pass found substitute Mirallas, who fired the ball into the back of the net.
"That was what we hoped for," Belgium captain Jan Vertonghen said. "We had a very good game. Sometimes we were in a difficult period but Scotland are a good team and we were well prepared. I think we had a lot of firepower up front, a lot of players who can score. We have so many who can and want to score."
In Serbia, both sides finished with 10 men in a Balkan derby that was played amid heavy security and a tense atmosphere after the ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. After a goalless first half, Croatia broke the deadlock in the 54th minute when Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic capitalized on a long pass from Dario Srna and confusion in Serbia's defense to score.
Serbia equalized with a header from Aleksandar Mitrovic in the 66th minute after a free kick by Miralem Sulejmani. Serbia's Nemanja Matic was sent off after a second yellow card in 75th minute, followed by Croatia's Josip Simunic who was given a straight red card after kicking Sulejmani.
Serbia is in third place, nine points behind Croatia, and cannot qualify for the finals. In the other group match, substitute Aleksandar Trajkovski scored a late winner as Macedonia beat Wales 2-1, with Gareth Bale staying on the bench for the entire game.
Both countries had already given up hope of qualifying. Macedonia is in fourth place with seven points, one more than Wales. Trajkovski struck the winner in the 80th minute from the edge of the area after Aaron Ramsey had equalized from the penalty spot. Ivan Trickovski had opened the scoring for the home side.
Bale, the world's most expensive footballer since his transfer to Real Madrid, has yet to play this season.