WCQ: Spain and Italy cruise; Wales held

Spain retained top spot in Group G after a 4-0 scoreline at home to Macedoniawas matched by rivals Italy in Liechtenstein.

Having missed a good chance to put Macedonia ahead, Darko Velkovski’s own goal broke the deadlock in the 34th minute and Vitolo doubled the lead after half-time before Nacho Monreal and Aritz Aduriz finished things off.

Italy were in cruise control after just 45 minutes against Liechtenstein, having scored four times in the first half of a competitive match since January 1987 when they put five past Malta in a European Qualifier.

Andrea Belotti’s two goals sandwiched efforts from Ciro Immobile — his fourth in as many appearances for Italy — and Antonio Candreva.

With the job done the second half was a less intensive affair and although Italy stay level on 10 points with Spain their goal difference is inferior by five.

Israel moved into third place after beating previous incumbents Albania 3-0 thanks to goals from Eran Zahavi, Dan Einbinder and Eliran Atar.

In Group D Wales were held to a 1-1 draw by Serbia after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 86th-minute goal cancelled out Gareth Bale’s first-half strike.

It denied Chris Coleman’s side the chance to overtake their opponents and move into second place behind the Republic of Ireland.

Artem Kravets’ first-half strike was enough for Ukraine to secure a 1-0 win over Finland and move up to second place in their World Cup qualification group.

Yevhen Konoplyanka’s surging run down the left set up the decisive moment on 25 minutes as his drilled cross found Kravets, who had the simplest of tasks to turn home after making a run to the back post.

James McClean’s lone score of the match was all the Republic of Ireland needed to put away Austria.

James McClean’s second-half goal gave Republic of Ireland a 1-0 win in Austria and moved them top of Group D.

McClean struck three minutes after half-time to give Martin O’Neill’s side their third win in four qualifying games and continue an unbeaten start to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Elsewhere in the group the bottom two sides Georgia and Moldova played out a 1-1 draw, while Serbia host Wales later today. Serbia, on seven points, can go ahead of Ireland on goal difference if they win.

In Group I, 10-man Croatia edged out Iceland 2-0 to go clear at the top. Marcelo Brozovic’s well struck, 15th-minute, left-footed effort from outside the area looked to be enough to ensure victory for Croatia against the Euro 2016 quarterfinalists, before the Inter Milan man added a second in the final minute.

Ivan Perisic was sent off with a straight red in injury time.

Turkey moved up to fourth in Group I with a 2-0 win against Kosovo. Goals from Buray Yilmaz and Volkan Sen in the 51st and 55th minutes secured an important three points for Turkey as they claimed their first win in this qualifying campaign.

Espn

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