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All-star Spain qualify for World Cup after Albania win

Riding three first-half strikes, La Roja qualified for the World Cup in style!

SNS | New Delhi |

Spain powered in three first-half goals to ease to a 3-0 win over Albania to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, with a game to spare.

Coming into the clash with the Albanians, Spain were topping their group with a two-point lead over second-placed Italy and knew a win on Friday night would seal their berth.

And La Roja did just that — thanks to goals from Rodrigo Moreno, Isco and Thiago Alcantara — to ensure the home crowd at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez went back home content.

Moreno missed a sitter early on but more than made amends with a thundering volley in the 16th minute. Receiving the ball on his chest with his back to the goal, the Valencia forward swivelled and blasted his shot past Albanian keeper Ertrit Berisha.

Rodrigo Moreno, Jordi Alba, Spain vs Albania, World Cup Qualifers, Spain Football
Rodrigo Moreno (L) was relieved to score after his shocking miss earlier on! (Photo: AFP)

 

Isco, who provided the assist for the opener, then doubled the hosts’ lead in the 24th minute, calmly collecting Koke’s pass inside the box before unleashing a powerful shot that flew into the roof of the net.

And Thiago would make sure of the result with a thumping header barely two minutes later, arriving inside the box at the right time to convert debutant Alvaro Odriozola Arzallus’ cross from the byline.

The possession stats were heavily in La Roja’s favour and from then on Julien Lopetegui’s men were in total control and David de Gea was a virtual spectator for the remainder of the first-half.

There was one moment of concern for Spain, however, when at the stroke of the half-time, Gerard Pique was caught in possession inside the box by Eros Grezda, but the rest of the Spanish defence bailed out their teammate by cutting out the winger’s cross.

Spain vs Albania, World Cup Qualifers, Spain Football, Gerard Pique (Photo: AFP)
Gerard Pique was booed by some sections of the home crowd! (Photo: AFP)

 

After the interval, the visitors started to make some forays into the Spain half and were unlucky not to score at least a consolation goal.

Spain vs Albania, World Cup Qualifers, Spain Football, Christian Panucci
Christian Panucci didn’t like what he saw in the first-half but his team put up a fight after the interval! (Photo: AFP)

 

Substitue Armando Sadiku would hit the post with a thumping header with de Gea rooted to his spot. Sadiku would have another opportunity not long after when Liridon Latifi’s shot was palmed into his path by de Gea but the awkward bounce saw his volley fly over the bar, much to the relief of the home crowd.

Fútbol, unión, compromiso y equipo. ¡#Rusia2018, allá vamos! #Russia2018, here we go! #VamosEspaña

A post shared by Sergio Ramos (@sergioramos) on

 

Spain have one final qualifier remaining, an away trip to Israel on Monday night, but Lopetgui is expected to treat that as a friendly with qualification assured and is likely to give other players a chance.

Elsewhere, second-placed Italy were held to 1-1 draw with Macedonia and the Azzurri are now assured of a play-off at least. Centre-back Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring for Italy in the 40th minute, but a late equaliser by Aleksandar Trajkovski ensured a share of the spoils.