Dominant Spain held 1-1 in Italy
TURIN, Italy (AP): FORMER WORLD champions Italy and Spain played to 1-1 yesterday, giving a chance for unheralded Albania to take the lead in their Europe qualifying group.
Elsewhere, Mario Mandzukic bagged a hat-trick as Croatia beat up Kosovo 6-0, while Wales conceded the lead twice away in Austria in a draw.
Spain lost to Italy in the round of 16 at the European Championship and were set for a measure of revenge in Turin yesterday.
Spain’s Vitolo scored in the 55th minute following a rare mistake from veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
But Daniele De Rossi converted a penalty with eight minutes remaining after Eder was tripped by Sergio Ramos and preserved his team’s formidable home record. Italy has won 43 World Cup qualifiers, drawing the other seven.
Spain and Italy are level on Italy’s Daniele De Rossi (right) celebrates with teammate Eder after scoring during a World Cup Group G qualifying match between Italy and Spain at the Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, yesterday.
points in Group G after winning their opening qualifiers. Only the top team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia automatically.
Albania moved to the top after winning in Lichtenstein 20 to maintain its perfect start to its qualifying campaign.
Mandzukic proved unstoppable, ruthlessly exploiting Kosovo’s inexperience and scoring his three in the first 35 minutes.
After Kosovo earned a credible draw at Finland last month, this was its first competitive home game but was played in Albania’s northern city of Shkodra as Kosovo has no stadium certified by UEFA.
Croatia were without star midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric but had another star available: Mandzukic needed just six minutes to open the scoring off a pass from Andrej Kramaric.
Mandzukic met Ivan Perisic’s cross to head home and double the lead and completed his hat trick with another header 10 minutes before the interval, this time using a cross from Sime Vrsaljko for his 27th goal in 71 internationals.
Iceland rallied in the final minutes to earn their first victory in qualifying, 3-2 over Finland.
Marko Arnautovic twice came to Austria’s rescue to draw 2-2 with Wales in the group where Wales, Serbia, Austria, and Ireland are separated only on goal difference at the top.
Wales took the lead with a slick goal in the 22nd minute, with Joe Allen volleying into the net. It was cancelled out inside six minutes by Stoke teammate Arnautovic’s downward header.