March 24, 2019, 13:51

World Cup round-up: Isco double sees off Italy as Spain close in on place at Russia 2018

World Cup round-up: Isco double sees off Italy as Spain close in on place at Russia 2018

Spain struck a potentially decisive blow in the battle for top spot in their World Cup qualifying pool by sweeping aside Italy 3-0 in Madrid on Saturday night.

Two goals from Real Madrid’s Isco, the first a glorious right-footed free kick into the top corner after 13 minutes and the second a crisp left-footed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after 40, set Spain on their way at the Bernabeu.

A close-range finish from Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata in the 77th minute completed a comprehensive win and lifted Spain three points clear of their opponents at the top of Group G.

The two sides came into the clash with identical records of five wins and one draw – in the reverse fixture last October – but Julen Lopetegui’s men emerged as the overwhelming favourites to book an automatic spot at next summer’s
tournament in Russia.

They have games against Liechtenstein, Albania and Israel to come.

Italy look comfortable in second spot, with a four-point lead over Albania following the latter’s 2-0 home win over Liechtenstein courtesy of second-half goals from Odise Roshi and Ansi Agolli.

Lower down the group, Israel slumped to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Macedonia, Goran Pandev with the 73rd-minute winner in Haifa.

Netherlands vs Bulgaria

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Serbia moved two points clear of the Republic of Ireland at the top of Group D thanks to a routine 3-0 home victory over bottom side Moldova.

Mijat Gacinovic opened the scoring in Belgrade in the 21st minute, with Aleksandar Kolarov making it two eight minutes later.

Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic wrapped up the win 10 minutes from time as Serbia took full advantage of the Republic dropping points in Georgia.

Greece vs Belgium

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Ukraine took advantage of some bizarre circumstances in Group I to leap from fourth place to first with a 2-0 win at home to Turkey.

Borussia Dortmund’s new signing Andriy Yarmolenko struck twice in the first half in Kharkiv to put Ukraine in pole position in the tightest of the nine qualification pools.

They are one point clear of Croatia, who have a game in hand after their match at home to Kosovo was abandoned after 27 minutes, with the score at 0-0, due to heavy rain which left the pitch in Zagreb unplayable.

Iceland are also one point off Ukraine, although their hopes were hit by a 1-0 loss in Finland.

Alexander Ring’s eighth-minute free-kick ended up being the deciding goal in Tampere, while Iceland finished the match with 10 men following the 75th-minute dismissal of Rurik Gislason, who picked up two yellow cards in three minutes.

The Turks are two points further back in fourth.


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