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PIX: Stuttering Spain held; Italy maintain perfect record

October 16, 2019 10:04 IST

Images from the Euro 2020 qualifying matches played on Tuesday night.

Stuttering Spain draw with Sweden to qualify for Euro 2020

IMAGE: Sweden's players celebrate after Marcus Berg, centre, scored the opening goal. Photograph: TT News Agency/Karin Wesslen/via Reuters

A stuttering Spain qualified for Euro 2020 as a stoppage-time strike by substitute Rodrigo cancelled out Marcus Berg's opener for Sweden in a 1-1 draw in Group F on Tuesday.

The result left Spain top of the standings on 20 points and guaranteed a spot in the top two, with the Swedes second on 15, and Romania a point further back in third.

 

Yet having drawn with both Norway and Sweden in their last two matches on their trip to Scandinavia, the Spaniards will have plenty of work to do if they want to be considered among the favourites at next year's tournament.

With captain Sergio Ramos suspended following his yellow card in their last game against Norway, Spain started superbly, pinging the ball from side to side and probing for openings behind the Swedish defence.

Thiago Alcantara could have put the visitors ahead early on, but after rounding the goalkeeper he miscontrolled the ball and it rolled out for a goal kick.

Midfielder Rodri had a stinging shot saved shortly afterwards and it looked to be only a matter of time before the Spaniards made the breakthrough, but with goalkeeper Robin in Olsen in superb form, the Swedes adjusted and began to grow into the game.

Fullback Mikael Lustig had their first shot on target in the 27th minute and striker Robin Quaison followed it up with a brilliant header that Spain keeper David De Gea clawed away for a corner.

With light rain falling throughout the game, players struggled to keep their footing on the Friends Arena surface.

Striker Berg put Sweden in front early in the second half after his initial header was saved, as was Emil Forsberg's shot, but Berg nodded home from close range at the second attempt to give his side the lead.

De Gea left the fray injured on the hour mark and despite dominating possession throughout, Spain found it almost impossible to create the kind of chances they had enjoyed in the opening exchanges.

IMAGE: Spain's Rodrigo celebrates after scoring the equaliser. Photograph: TT News Agency/Anders Wiklund/via Reuters

The crowd of over 49,000 in the stands were in fine voice as they ignored the damp weather with the final whistle approaching, but Rodrigo silenced them by snapping up a ball from a corner and rifling it home to send Spain through.

"I am very happy, the players were very good and we met a very strong rival. It was tough for us, but we corrected what needed to be corrected," Spain coach Robert Moreno told reporters.

"It's great that have achieved this, there's a lot less pressure and now in three weeks we play Malta. We must focus on playing well in the remaining matches," he added.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson said he was happy with his players, despite them conceding a late goal.

"That's football, it happens sometimes. I can't sit here and be annoyed with players who have given everything," he told a reporters.

Elsewhere in the group, the Faroe Islands secured their first win of the campaign with a 1-0 home win over Malta, while Romania drew 1-1 at home to Norway.

The battle to join Spain at Euro 2020 could be decided when Sweden visit Romania on Nov. 15. Norway, who are fourth in the group on 11 points, still retain a remote chance of making the tournament.

Italy maintain perfect record with easy win in Liechtenstein

IMAGE: Stephan El Shaarawy scores their fourth goal for Italy. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Italy, already qualified for Euro 2020, maintained their perfect record in Group J and clocked up a record-equalling ninth international win in a row with a 5-0 thumping of Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

Teemu Pukki scored twice as Finland beat Armenia 3-0 to strengthen their grip on second place and move closer to a first-ever appearance at either the Euro or World Cup finals while Bosnia & Herzegovina suffered a severe setback with a 2-1 defeat in Greece.

Italy have 24 points from eight games while Finland have 15, five ahead of Armenia and Bosnia. The top two teams qualify for Euro 2020.

Italy's run, which includes a friendly win over the United States followed by their eight Euro qualifiers, is their longest since 1938-39 under Vittorio Pozzo.

"Am I interested in equalling Pozzo's record? I would be interested in winning two World Cups and an Olympic Games like he did, but a European Championship would do just fine," said Italy coach Roberto Mancini.

IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate after Andrea Belotti celebrates scored their fifth goal. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Mancini made 10 changes to the side which beat Greece on Saturday to clinch qualification, and gave a debut to Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

Liechtenstein nearly stunned the visitors after 40 seconds when Dennis Salanovic forced Salvatore Sirigu to save with his legs but, from the resulting corner, the hosts broke down the other end of the field and Federico Bernardeschi put them ahead.

Italy struggled to build on the early breakthrough and Sirigu had to make another difficult save from Salanovic's curling shot just after the hour before the floodgates finally opened.

Andrea Belotti headed in from a corner in the 70th minute and, seven minutes later, Alessio Romangnoli headed in his first Italy goal from Stephan El Shaarawy's cross. El Shaarawy, with a breakaway goal, and Belotti, with another header, rounded off the win.

"The important thing is that all the lads are really involved," said Mancini, who has rejuvenated the team during his 18 months in charge. "And the truth is that, on June 1, I will be forced to make some important choices and some kids will have to miss out."

Fredrik Jensen gave Finland a halftime lead against Armenia before Pukki scored two nearly identical goals in the second half.

Joel Pohjanpalo threaded a fine pass into the path of Pukki who clipped his finish over Armenia goalkeeper Aram Airapetyan in the 61st minute and the Norwich City forward repeated the trick in the 88th minute, this time from a Rasmus Schueller pass.

Bosnia were condemned to a 2-1 defeat in Greece when Adnan Kovacevic turned a Ioannis Fetfatzidis cross into his own net two minutes from time. Greece had gone ahead through Evangelos Pavlidis on the half hour with Amer Gojak equalising for Bosnia five minutes later.

Swiss revive chances with win, leave Ireland to stew

IMAGE: Switzerland's Haris Seferovic celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: John Sibley/via Reuters

Switzerland revived their hopes of qualifying directly for Euro 2020 and denied Ireland the chance to book their place early with a nervous 2-0 win in rain-soaked Geneva on Tuesday which threw their group wide open.

Ireland would have qualified with a win but that never looked likely from the moment that Haris Seferovic gave Switzerland a 16th-minute lead on a muddy pitch at the Stade de Geneve.

Ireland had a let-off when Ricardo Rodriguez saw a second-half penalty saved before an own goal by Shane Duffy in stoppage time ensured three points for the hosts.

Ireland and Denmark top Group D on 12 points apiece with the Swiss one behind but Ireland have only one match left, at home to Denmark, while the Danes and Swiss still have two each to play. Switzerland have a much easier run-in as they host Georgia and visit Gibraltar in their final games.

Switzerland took early control and Seferovic picked up a loose ball outside the penalty area and scored with a snapshot beyond Darren Randolph to put them ahead.

Ireland had to wait 42 minutes for their first effort on target, a Duffy header from a corner which went straight to keeper Yann Sommer.

Seferovic fired wildly over from a good position before halftime and, as the hosts became edgy, Ireland enjoyed a long period of pressure early in the second half without seriously threatening Sommer's goal.

After Randolph turned a Fabian Schaer header onto the post, Switzerland won a penalty when Seamus Coleman blocked Breel Embolo's shot with his hand and was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Yet Rodriguez's weak penalty from a stuttering run up was pushed onto the post by Randolph.

Switzerland finally settled matters with the last kick of the game courtesy of Duffy, who slid Edimilson Fernandes' shot into his own net.

Georgia, who cannot qualify from the group, won 3-2 away to Gibraltar in the other game.

Giorgi Kharaishvili and Jaba Kankava put Georgia 2-0 ahead after 21 minutes but Gibraltar, still without a point, hit back to equalise through Lee Casciaro and Roy Chipolina in an eight-minute spell in the second half.

It was all in vain, however, as Giorgi Kvilitaia grabbed Georgia's winner six minutes from fulltime.

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