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2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying: Spain beat Macedonia to stay ahead of Italy

Spain and Italy remain locked on 16 points at the top of Group G of UEFA qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the former stay ahead on goal difference

football Updated: Jun 12, 2017 09:40 IST
Agence France-Presse
2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying,FIFA World Cup,2018 FIFA World Cup
Spain won 2-1 against Macedonia in Skopje, while Italy thrashed Liechtenstein 5-0 in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying games.(AFP)

Spain kept their noses in front of Italy in the fight for automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup as David Silva and Diego Costa were on target in a 2-1 win in Macedonia on Sunday.

The two European giants remain locked on 16 points at the top of Group G of UEFA qualifying after Italy saw off Liechtenstein 5-0 in Udine.

And Spain host the Azzurri in their next qualifier at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu on September 2.

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Victory extends Julen Lopetegui’s unbeaten record as Spain boss since replacing Vicente del Bosque just under a year ago, and the visitors looked to be set for an easy night in Skopje after a dominant first 45 minutes.

Silva has been the talisman of Lopetegui’s reign and took his tally to eight goals in his last 10 international caps by finishing off a fine move involving Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba for the opener on 15 minutes.

Isco was rewarded for his brilliant form towards the end of Real’s La Liga and Champions League double-winning campaign with a rare start for his country and looked keen to make an impact.

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He stung the palms of Stole Dimitrievski before driving another effort just over the bar.

There was no stopping Isco midway through the half, though, as some sublime skill took him past Kire Ristevski before his low cross was turned home by Costa at the back post.

Isco should have added a third before half-time when he dallied before firing too close to Dimitrievski at his near post.

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However, Spain looked like a side in need of a rest after a long season as they took their foot well off the gas after the break to allow Macedonia back into the game.

It took an individual moment of brilliance from Stefan Ristovski to give the hosts hope, though, as the right-back charged forward below blasting high into David de Gea’s top left-hand corner.

Dimitrievski was forced into one final fine save four minutes from time to prevent Costa adding a gloss to the scoreline, but Lopetegui’s men comfortably saw out the final stages for a hard-earned three points.

First Published: Jun 12, 2017 09:37 IST