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PIX: Italy secure Euro 2020 qualification; Spain held

October 13, 2019 08:25 IST

A round-up of Saturday's Euro 2020 qualification matches.

Italy's players celebrate after beating Greece and qualifying for Euro 2020 at the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, on Saturday.

IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate after beating Greece and qualifying for Euro 2020 at the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, on Saturday. Photograph: Alberto Lingria

Italy secured a place at next year’s European Championship finals with three games to spare thanks to a 2-0 win over Greece at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

A second-half penalty from Chelsea midfielder Jorginho gave the hosts the lead before Federico Bernardeschi drilled in the winner 12 minutes from time.

 

Roberto Mancini’s side have won all seven of their qualifying matches and top Group J on 21 points, having ended fifth-placed Greece’s slim hopes of qualification.

Finland suffered a thumping 4-1 defeat away to Bosnia & Herzegovina but remain second on 12 points, two ahead of Bosnia and Armenia, who missed a golden opportunity to go joint second when they were held to a 1-1 draw away to rock-bottom Liechtenstein.

Federico Bernardeschi scores Italy's second goal.

IMAGE: Federico Bernardeschi scores Italy's second goal. Photograph: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

Italy, dressed in their controversial new green shirt for the first time instead of the usual blue, toiled during the first half as a well-drilled Greek side stopped the hosts from registering any shots on target despite them boasting 72% of possession.

Mancini’s side found the breakthrough when Lorenzo Insigne’s shot was blocked by the arm of defender Andreas Bouchalakis just after the hour mark, and Jorginho sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the resulting spot kick.

The result was put beyond doubt late on when substitute Bernardeschi fired a shot into the bottom corner from outside the box.

“We were too frenetic in the first half but should’ve patiently moved the ball around to open up spaces,” Mancini told Rai Sport. “Instead, we started long balls and that’s no good.

“It was a much more relaxed second half, we kept focused and achieved our objective.”

Victory assured Italy, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals, of top spot in their group and extended their winning run to eight matches in all competitions, one short of the all-time record set by Vittorio Pozzo’s side of 1938/39.

King's penalty ends Spain's 100 percent record

Kristoffer Ajer, Alexander Soerloth and Joshua King celebrate after the latter scores in stoppage time toclinch a draw with Spain.

IMAGE: Kristoffer Ajer, Alexander Soerloth and Joshua King celebrate after the latter (extreme right) scores in stoppage time to clinch a draw with Spain. Photograph: NTB Scanpix/Stian Lysberg Solum/Reuters

Norway striker Joshua King scored a stoppage-time penalty to snatch a 1-1 draw at home to Spain in their Euro 2020 qualifier, ending Spain’s 100 percent record in Group F and making them wait to seal their place in next year’s tournament.

Spain top the group with 19 points after seven games, Sweden are second on 14 after thrashing Malta 4-0 away and Romania are third on 13, having beaten the Faroe Islands 3-0 earlier on Saturday. Norway have 10 points.

Spain, who would have sealed their place at Euro 2020 with victory in Norway, will clinch their spot if they earn a draw or a victory away to Sweden on Tuesday.

Saul Niguez had given Robert Moreno’s side the lead with a strike from outside the area early in the second half but goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga gave away a penalty late in the game by clattering into captain Omar Elabdellaoui.

King, who had missed a clear chance to level a few moments earlier as the hosts piled on the pressure, sent Kepa the wrong way to level the game and give his side a fighting chance of qualifying.

Sergio Ramos made history by overtaking Iker Casillas to become Spain’s most-capped player of all time with 168 appearances but picked up a yellow card which means he is suspended from the game against Sweden.

Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz twice came close to doubling his side’s advantage before King’s last-gasp penalty, hammering the crossbar from outside the box and later hitting the post.

Sweden thrash Malta

Sebastian Larsson steps up to take a penalty kick and score Sweden's second goal.

IMAGE: Sebastian Larsson steps up to take a penalty kick and score Sweden's second goal. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Sweden went ahead in the 11th minute in their game in Malta thanks to a deft volley from defender Marcus Danielson, who was making his international debut at the age of 30.

Sebastian Larsson scored their second from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, his first goal in more than seven years for the national side.

Andrei Agius then turned Robin Quaison’s ball into his own net to make it 3-0, and Quaison was pulled down for a second penalty that Larsson again slotted home to round out the scoring in a one-sided encounter.

Romania were in danger of being held to an embarrassing draw against the Faroe Islands, who had lost all of their previous six games, as they missed a flurry of chances despite dominating the play.

They finally got off the mark when George Puscas scored in the 74th minute and sealed victory with further goals from Alexandru Mitrita and Claudiu Keseru.

Schmeichel superb as Danes down Swiss

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez fails to check Yussuf Poulsen, who scores the winning goal for Denmark.

IMAGE: Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez fails to check Yussuf Poulsen, who scores the winning goal for Denmark. Photograph: Ritzau Scanpix/Liselotte Sabroe/Reuters

Striker Yussuf Poulsen struck a dramatic winner six minutes from time as Denmark beat Switzerland 1-0 in Copenhagen in a Euro 2020 qualifier to join Ireland, who were held to a scoreless draw in Georgia earlier, at the top of Group D.

The Irish and the Danes both have 12 points after playing six games while the Swiss, who have a game in hand over the top two, are third on eight points.

Having barely managed a decent effort on goal, Denmark snatched all three points when Poulsen latched on to a sublime reverse pass from Christian Eriksen before going on a surging run and rifling home the ball to send the Parken stadium into ecstasy.

Despite Poulsen’s goal, the man-of-the-match award went to Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who pulled off a string of world-class saves.

The most important came deep into second-half stoppage time as he somehow managed to get down to his right and steer a ball destined for the bottom corner to safety, and shortly afterwards the final whistle went.

Earlier, Ireland defender John Egan saw his early header come back off a post in his competitive international debut as his side were held to a 0-0 draw by Georgia in a drab game in Tbilisi.

Egan’s fourth-minute effort was the closest either side came in a dull encounter that saw both sides struggle to hold on to the ball and create decent chances.

The home side were limited to a handful of speculative shots from distance while the Irish, who edged Georgia 1-0 when the sides met in Dublin in March, showed little in attack until substitute Aaron Connolly entered the fray late on.

The sprightly 19-year-old replaced James Collins in the 78th minute to make his debut and manufactured two late chances for himself, only to see one saved and the other fly just wide.

The result leaves the Georgians fourth on five points after six games, with Gibraltar bottom with zero points from five.

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