Im­mo­bile res­cues Italy as Spain cruise through qual­i­fiers

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

LAZIO striker Ciro Im­mo­bile grabbed an in­jury-time win­ner as four-time cham­pi­ons Italy snatched a 3-2 come­back win at Mace­do­nia on Oc­to­ber 9 to nar­rowly avoid a World Cup qual­i­fy­ing em­bar­rass­ment.

Italy, who had needed a late penalty to sal­vage a point against Group G ri­vals Spain on Oc­to­ber 6 were star­ing down a shock de­feat against a Mace­do­nia side ranked a lowly 146 in the world.

Torino striker An­drea Belotti had given Italy a 24th-minute lead just four min­utes after Palermo marks­man Ilija Nestorokvski had crashed a drive off the cross­bar for the hosts.

But Nestorokvski lev­elled just be­fore the hour mark when he robbed Marco Ver­ratti be­fore tuck­ing the ball past vet­eran goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon.

Two min­utes later, Mace­do­nia surged ahead, but Im­mo­bile put Italy back on equal terms at 2-2 with 15 min­utes left after good ap­proach work from Ver­ratti and An­to­nio Can­dreva.

On 90 min­utes, Marco Parolo had a header ruled out for off­side be­fore club team­mate Im­mo­bile saved Italy with the win­ner two min­utes into in­jury time, fin­ish­ing off a Can­dreva cross.

“We were weak and let up in the sec­ond half. You can’t give any­thing away at in­ter­na­tional level. We had to be more ruth­less,” said Im­mo­bile.

Italy are sec­ond in Group G with seven points, but Spain lead the way on goal dif­fer­ence after a de­served 2-0 win over Al­ba­nia.

Chelsea star Diego Costa knocked in the first goal at 55 min­utes past goal­keeper Etrit Ber­isha, who had pulled off a se­ries of fine saves in the first half.

Nolito hit the sec­ond of the night just three min­utes after com­ing on as a sub­sti­tute for Vi­tolo.

“This was a very dif­fi­cult match even if it ap­peared easy,” said Nolito. “Al­ba­nia are a good side who know how to play.”

The only down­side for Spain was see­ing key de­fender Ser­gio Ramos suf­fer a left knee in­jury which could side­line him for three matches with his club side, Real Madrid.

In Group D, Southamp­ton’s Du­san Tadic scored the win­ner to lift Ser­bia over Aus­tria, 3-2.

New­cas­tle’s Alexsan­dar Mitro­vic scored Ser­bia’s first two goals in the open­ing half.

At seven points, they lead the way on goal dif­fer­ence over the Repub­lic of Ire­land, who beat Moldova 3-1.

Euro 2016 sur­prise semi-finalists Wales were held to a dis­ap­point­ing 1-1 draw by Ge­or­gia in Cardiff as their push to reach a first World Cup since 1958 hit an­other road­block.

The draw fol­lowed a 2-2 stale­mate against Aus­tria four days ago, as Chris Cole­man’s side re­gret­ted not mak­ing the most of a host of chances in the first half.

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale headed Wales into a 10th-minute lead but Ge­or­gia hit back after the break, equal­is­ing through Tornike Okri­ashvili’s 57thminute header.

Ge­or­gia nearly won the game later on when a Va­leri Kaza­ishvili shot struck the cross­bar.

“Peo­ple will look at it as two points dropped but it might be a point gained at the end of the day, in the sec­ond half,” said Cole­man whose team went from top of the group to third place.

In Group I, Croa­tia won 1-0 in Fin­land with Juventus striker Mario Mandzu­kic scor­ing the only goal after 18 min­utes when Fin­land goal­keeper Lukas Hradecky al­lowed a cross from An­drej Kra­maric to slip from his grasp.

Croa­tia have seven points and lead on goal dif­fer­ence over Iceland, who fol­lowed up their come-from-be­hind 3-2 win over Fin­land with an im­pres­sive 2-0 vic­tory over Turkey in Reykjavik.

Turkey de­fender Omer To­prak put through his own goal in the 42nd minute be­fore Al­fred Finnbo­ga­son added a sec­ond just be­fore the break.

Ukraine are in third, two points back, after a 3-0 win over Kosovo in a game played in Poland. –

Photo: AFP

Italy’s for­ward Ciro Im­mo­bile (left) scores dur­ing a World Cup qual­i­fy­ing foot­ball match against Mace­do­nia on Oc­to­ber 9. Italy won 3-2.

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