PARIS, September 4- Iceland took a big step towards sealing their ticket to Euro 2016 with a 1-0 win in the Netherlands on Thursday which put the Dutch in danger of missing the finals in France.
A Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty on 51 minutes ensured that Iceland stay top of Group A with 18 points – eight ahead of World Cup bronze medallists the Netherlands – who are third with three games left.
The stuttering Dutch campaign had already cost Guus Hiddink his job and new coach Danny Blind had a baptism of fire in Amsterdam.
With their backs to the wall the Dutch desperately needed a win but were lucky not to be trailing after seven minutes with Jon Dadi Bodvarson missing on front of goal.
The Dutch lost captain Arjen Robben to an apparent groin injury after half and hour and he was replaced by Luciano Narsingh.
And things began to unravel for the hosts when defender Bruno Martins Indi was send off on 33 minutes for appearing to grab striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson by the neck.
The nightmare continued after the break with Swansea midfielder Sigurdsson converting a penalty awarded after Gregory van der Wiel brought down Birkir Bjarnason.
Blind, the former iconic captain of Dutch giants Ajax, had said he wanted to “breathe new life” into the national side, but time is now ticking on the 1988 European champions’ campaign.
The Netherlands are third in Group A six points behind the Czech Republic who beat Kazakhstan 2-1 thanks to a late Milan Skoda brace on 74 and 86 minutes.
The Netherlands face a must-win journey on Sunday to Turkey, who were held 1-1 by modest Latvia, and are fourth with nine points.
The Czech Republic travel to Latvia while Iceland will bid to seal their first Euro qualification at home against Kazakhstan.
– Bale keeps Wales top –
In Group B, Gareth Bale put Wales within touching distance of Euro 2016 and a first major tournament appearance for 58 years as the Real Madrid’s star’s late goal clinched a 1-0 win over Cyprus.
Bale’s bullet header settled a nervous encounter with just eight minutes remaining in Nicosia and a victory against Israel on Sunday will guarantee their place in next year’s finals.
Wales, who last qualified for a major tournament at the 1958 World Cup, are top of their Group B with 17 points — three points ahead of Belgium who won 3-1 at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Israel — third with 12 points after beating tiny Andorra 4-0 — will be looking for a first ever Euro qualification against Wales.
In Group H, Italy took advantage of Croatia’s goalless draw in Azerbaijan, to take top spot by beating Malta 1-0 thanks to Southampton striker Graziano Pelle’s 69th minute goal.
The Azzurri host Bulgaria on Sunday in a match that could secure their ticket to next summer’s finals in France.