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Euro qualifiers: Spain beat Faroe Islands, Italy win

September 09, 2019 08:10 IST

Spain's Paco Alcacer celebrates with Jose Gaya after scoring their fourth goal

IMAGE: Spain's Paco Alcacer celebrates with Jose Gaya after scoring their fourth goal. Photograph: Eloy Alonso

Spain homed in on Euro 2020 by easing past the Faroe Islands 4-0 on Sunday for a sixth straight qualifying win that featured two goals each from Rodrigo and Paco Alcacer and moved them further clear at the top of Group F.

Sergio Ramos equalled Iker Casillas's record of 167 appearances for Spain on an emotional night at Sporting Gijon's El Molinon stadium, which paid tribute to the late Spain and Sporting forward Quini before kickoff.

 

A minute's silence was also held in memory of former Spain coach Luis Enrique's daughter Xana, who passed away last month.

There followed a straightforward win that took Spain on to a maximum 18 points after six games and leaves them seven ahead of second-placed Sweden, who drew 1-1 at home to Norway.

Romania beat Malta 1-0 with a goal from George Puscas to leapfrog Norway into third place on 10 points.

Valencia striker Rodrigo tapped into an empty net to put Spain in front in the 13th minute despite being in an offside position when he received a pass from Mikel Oyarzabal.

But with video technology not in use in the qualifying phases, the goal stood.

Rodrigo doubled Spain's lead in the 50th minute on coach Robert Moreno's home debut by cutting in from the right wing and firing a left-footed shot towards goal which took a heavy deflection off a visiting defender on its way into the net.

Alcacer then entrenched his reputation as a highly productive substitute by further stretching Spain's advantage with simple strikes in the 89th minute and deep in stoppage-time.

Midfielder Thiago Alcantara said the team had not played as well as they would have liked due to the visitors' negative tactics.

"It was very tough at first, you expect a team like them to close you down and sit back and that's what happened and we struggled to break them down," he said.

"They had three players marking one of ours although once we got the first goal it was slightly easier. We still weren't completely comfortable but we're happy with the result."

With the top two sides in each group guaranteed a place at Euro 2020, Spain need only win two of their remaining four games to qualify for the tournament, but Thiago said his side were determined to win every match.

"We are focused on getting all the points, it doesn't matter to us when we qualify, we want every point, from the first to the last," he added.

Harsh penalty earns Italy 2-1 win in Finland

Italy maintained their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying when a harsh penalty converted by Jorginho gave them a 2-1 win in Finland on Sunday.

Jorginho scored the spot kick with 11 minutes left after Nicolo Barella’s shot hit Sauli Vaisanen’s arm just above the elbow at point-blank range when the Finnish player had his arm across his chest.

Ciro Immobile had earlier headed Italy in front in the 59th minute with his first international goal for two years before Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland with a penalty in the 72nd minute.

Italy lead Group J with 18 points from six games, six ahead of second-placed Finland who remained on course for their first-ever major tournament appearance despite the defeat.

Armenia have nine points after their 4-2 win over Bosnia, who are fourth with seven. The top two teams qualify for Euro 2020 and Finland will have a second chance through the Nations League play-offs.

“We suffered a little but we caused it ourselves by losing the ball where we shouldn’t lose it,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who has been given the job of rebuilding the team following their failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup.

“On the other hand, there were lots of things that I liked. It’s very positive that we dominate games away from home. Our nature is always to attack and I’ve seen that again tonight, giving very little of the ball to our opponents.”

Finland started aggressively, pressing Italy and causing them to make some mistakes in defence, with Emerson Palmieri pulling a muscle as he chased back to stop a Pukki run.

Italy began to assert themselves and Stefano Sensi brought a flying save from Lukas Hradecky with an exquisite volley on the turn from the edge of the area.

Francesco Acerbi had a shot deflected for a corner, another Sensi effort fizzed wide of the post and Hradecky saved with his legs to deny Federico Chiesa from a tight angle.

Finland had a chance at start of the second half when Pukki was released on the left but he skewed his shot wide.

Italy took back control and went ahead when Chiesa made space on the right and delivered a pinpoint cross for Immobile, who powered his header past Hradecky for his first Italy goal since September 2017 when he scored against Israel.

Shortly afterwards, Pukki burst into the Italy penalty area and went down under a challenge from Sensi, who also marred his fine performance by starting the move when he lost possession in midfield.

The Norwich City striker comfortably converted for Finland’s first goal against Italy since 1977.

Yet Italy replied with a penalty of their own which is bound fuel the controversy over the new handball rules.

Forsberg strike gives Sweden 1-1 draw with Norway

Winger Emil Forsberg drilled home a second-half equaliser to grab a point for Sweden as they came from behind to draw 1-1 with Scandinavian neighbours Norway in their Group F Euro 2020 qualifier in Stockholm on Sunday.

The Swedes held the upper hand for most of the first half but it was the visitors who went in a goal up at the break as Andreas Granqvist made a terrible error in under-hitting a pass to Victor Lindelof.

The loose ball was snapped up by Joshua King, who powered forward before releasing the ball to Martin Odegaard. The young midfielder prodded the ball on to Norway captain Stefan Johansen, who swept home a simple finish.

Moved into a more central role in the second half, Forsberg got more and more involved in the Swedish attack and he rattled home the equaliser on the hour mark after an intricate build-up by the Swedes.

The derby spirit of the game was reflected in some heavy challenges and less-than-elegant play as the visitors shut up shop knowing that a point would keep them in the hunt for qualification.

With all of the six teams having played six games, Spain lead the group on a maximum 18 points following a 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands, with Sweden second on 11 points, Romania third on 10 and Norway one point further back.

Norway host Spain next on October 12, with the group leaders travelling to Stockholm three days later.

More misery for Greece as Liechtenstein grab late draw

Greece’s miserable run in the Euro 2020 qualifiers continued on Sunday when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by a Liechtenstein side who had lost their previous five games in the group without scoring.

Liechtenstein, whose population of 38,000 would comfortably fit inside the Athens Olympic stadium, had lost their previous 19 European and World Cup qualifiers, a run stretching back to a 1-1 draw with Moldova in June 2015.

In a near-deserted arena, Greece, the Euro 2004 champions, went ahead in the 33rd minute when Giorgios Masouras turned in a cross from Efthymis Koulouris.

But the hosts, whose previous matches in the group produced home defeats against Italy and Armenia and a loss in Finland, paid a heavy price for failing to add to that goal.

With five minutes left, Nicolas Hasler sent a hopeful ball forward for Denis Salanovic who managed to evade his marker and slip the ball past Vasilios Barkas to stun the hosts.

Greece, who missed both Euro 2016 and the last World Cup, are fifth in the six-team Group J with five points while Liechtenstein remained bottom with one and a goal difference of minus 18.

Swiss hit four against Gibraltar, Georgia frustrate Denmark

Switzerland took 37 minutes to break down a stubborn Gibraltar side before easing to a 4-0 win while Denmark were frustrated by Georgia in a 0-0 draw in Group D of the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Sunday.

Ireland stayed top of the five-team group with 11 points from five games, two ahead of Denmark, while Switzerland are one point behind in third and with a game in hand. Georgia have four points while Gibraltar have none and have yet to score a goal.

Edimilson Fernandes was close twice early on for Switzerland and Loris Benito rattled the woodwork before Gibraltar were forced to change goalkeepers in the 23rd minute as Dayle Coleing went off injured to be replaced by Kyle Goldwin.

The Gibraltar defence still held firm until Denis Zakaria nodded in from a corner in the 37th minute.

Admir Mehmedi added the second with another header, from a Fabian Schaer cross, in the 43rd minute and Ricardo Rodriguez fired home the third in first-half stoppage time after the ball pinged around the Gibraltar area.

Granit Xhaka had several attempts to get on the scoresheet after the break, with one effort well saved by Goldwin.

The Swiss had to be content with one more goal three minutes for the end when Mehmedi’s shot hit a defender and rebounded to Mario Gavranovic who dispatched the ball into the net. Denmark were frustrated by Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria and the woodwork in Tbilisi.

Loria twice denied Martin Braithwaite with fingertip saves as Denmark dominated the first half.

Valeri Qazaishvili had Georgia’s best effort with a long-range shot which flew narrowly wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s right-hand post in the 76th minute.

Denmark substitute Christian Gytkjaer cracked a shot against the crossbar with Loria beaten in the 82nd minute but, despite 59 percent of possession, they created few openings and had to settle for a point.

Mkhitaryan scores twice as Armenia stun Bosnia

Armenia captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored twice as Armenia stunned Bosnia with a dramatic 4-2 win in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Sunday, prompting the resignation of Bosnia's coach Robert Prosinecki.

The win lifted Armenia above Bosnia in Group J as they moved into third place with nine points, three behind Finland, while Bosnia are fourth with seven.

The top two qualify for next year's tournament although Bosnia could also qualify through the Nations League playoffs after winning their group in that competition.

"I was very optimistic and I still think Bosnia is a very good team but something obviously isn't right," said Prosinecki on the Bosnia FA website after the defeat.

"It seems I have failed to motivate the team."

The game got off to a lively start as Edin Dzeko hit the post with a low shot for Bosnia before his AS Roma team mate Mkhitaryan gave the hosts a third-minute lead.

The midfielder collected Tigran Barseghyan's cross from the right before pushing it past goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic and thumping it into the net.

Bosnia hit back 10 minutes later as Amer Gojak's inswinging cross found Dzeko who got away from the Armenia defence to turn the ball into the net.

Mkhitaryan, Armenia's record scorer, put his team back in front in the 66th minute when he provided an emphatic finish to a well-worked move, his 29th goal for his country, but Gojak levelled again for Bosnia four minutes later.

Mkhitaryan then turned provider as he supplied a perfect cross for Hovhannes Hambardzumyan to score at the far post in the 77th minute.

Gojak could have equalised in stoppage time but volleyed wide from a good position and then Stjepan Loncar turned Mkhitaryan's cross into his own net to complete the scoring.

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