Spain & Italy win to stay tied atop WCup qualifying group
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — After missing out on the European Championship, forwards Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Andrea Belotti helped Spain and Italy move one step closer to World Cup qualification by leading their team’s comfortable wins on Saturday.
Vitolo was Spain’s most incisive player and put its 4-0 victory over Macedonia beyond doubt, while Belotti scored twice in Italy’s 4-0 victory at Liechtenstein.
Spain and Italy have 10 points in Europe’s Group G, with the Spaniards ahead on goal difference. Macedonia and Liechtenstein have zero points.
Israel moved into third place with nine points after winning 3-0 at 10-man Albania, which was left with six.
SPAIN 4, MACEDONIA 0
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, who remained undefeated in five matches since taking over for Vicente del Bosque, had to make several changes to his first-choice squad due to a spate of injuries.
Marc Bartra and Nacho Fernandez played in the center of the defense in place of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. Nacho Monreal was in for Jordi Alba at left back, Thiago Alcantara filled in for Andres Iniesta in midfield, and Morata started in strike for Diego Costa.
But Lopetegui stuck with Vitolo on the right side of his attack, and the Sevilla forward didn’t disappoint.
Macedonia’s respectable start was ruined when Darko Velkovski’s headed clearance landed in his own net in the 34th.
Vitolo emerged as Spain’s leader in the second half, coming close to setting up Morata and David Silva before he nodded in Silva’s pass to double the lead in the 63rd.
Monreal added a volley the 84th for his first international goal before substitute Aritz Aduriz made it four goals a minute later after Vitolo let Silva’s pass run through to the striker.
LIECHTENSTEIN 0, ITALY 4
Belotti put Italy ahead early after he headed in a corner kick by Alessio Romagnoli.
Ciro Immobile struck Italy’s second in less than a minute, and Candreva made it 3-0 before Belotti netted his second just before halftime.
Belotti has also scored eight times for Torino in Serie A this season.
ALBANIA 0, ISRAEL 3
Israel won the match that was played under tight security measures after media reports alleged a group of 15 persons arrested in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia, planned an attack during the game.
Albania was down a man and a goal from the 18th after Berat Djimsiti was sent off with a direct red card for fouling an Israel player with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Eran Zahavi converted the penalty for Israel, which got a second goal from Dan Einbinder and a third from Eliran Atar late.
Only the group winner automatically secures a spot for the World Cup in Russia. The second-place team must go through a playoff to make it to the 2018 tournament.