OSLO (Reuters) - Defender Fabian Schaer scored two headers as Switzerland took a huge step towards booking a spot at next year's World Cup in Brazil with a 2-0 victory over Norway in qualifying Group E on Tuesday.
Norway defender Espen Ruud had an evening to forget in Oslo, conceding a free kick and then seeing Schaer rise above him to nod it home to give Switzerland the lead after 12 minutes.
Early in the second half Schaer beat Ruud to a dead ball for a second time, this time heading home through keeper Rune Jarstein's legs to double Switzerland's advantage.
Norway tried desperately to force their way back into the game but the Swiss defence restricted them to shots from distance as they held on for a comfortable victory.
Hapless Ruud shouldered much of the blame for his team's third defeat in eight qualifiers.
"It's two set pieces, which we're supposed to be good at. We have a poor line and my marking is loose," he told reporters. "I should be marking the man that scores, and what happens should be avoided.
"He's too smart for me, he makes a run on the inside and I fall behind. It's my man that scores."
Norway coach Egil Olsen, however, did not point the finger at individuals.
"We were (planning) to win the dead-ball battle, but we lost it," he told TV2. "We were behind 1-0 and it's tough to concede an early goal. We tried, but we weren't good enough."
The defeat keeps second-placed Norway on 11 points, while Switzerland opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the standings ahead of the day's later matches.
Iceland and Albania, on 10 points, were playing in Reykjavik, with Slovenia travelling to Cyprus as one of four teams in the group still in with a shout of taking second place.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Sonia Oxley)