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Rediff.com  » Sports » UEFA Nations League: Uninspiring Spain beat Bosnia

UEFA Nations League: Uninspiring Spain beat Bosnia

Last updated on: November 19, 2018 11:27 IST

A round-up of results from the Nations League matches played on Sunday

Spain's Pablo Fornals in action during their match against Bosnia

IMAGE: Spain's Pablo Fornals in action during their match against Bosnia. Photograph: Santiago Ferrero/Reuters

Spain returned to winning ways after two straight defeats by overcoming Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 in a stale international friendly on Sunday as midfielder Brais Mendez came off the bench to score on his debut for the national team.

Spain had learnt several hours before kickoff that they had missed out on reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League due to England beating Croatia 2-1 in London.

They seemed affected by the news as they played with little spark or imagination until Mendez tapped in from close range to settle the game.

 

Having lost 3-2 away to Croatia on Thursday and to England by the same scoreline in October to leave their Nations League fate out of their own hands, coach Luis Enrique used the occasion to give a chance to his second string players.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga came in for the much-criticised David de Gea and Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso made his international debut, while Isco wore the captain's armband in his 35th appearance for Spain.

Spain dominated possession throughout the game but struggled to create decent chances, with Isco and Marco Asensio taking turns in the first period to try their luck with long range shots which rarely bothered Bosnia goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.

Alvaro Morata missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock early in the second half when Sehic parried a shot from Asensio at his feet, but the Chelsea forward failed to properly strike the ball and missed the target.

Spain's eventual breakthrough came from another rebound, when 21-year-old Mendez pounced first on a loose ball as Sehic failed to hold a ground shot from Isco.

The goal gave a much-needed lift to the crowd in Las Palmas and allowed Spain to at least round off what has been an eventful and difficult 2018 with a victory.

Swiss crush Belgium to reach semis

Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scores their fifth goal to complete his hat-trick in the match against Belgium 

IMAGE: Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scores their fifth goal to complete his hat-trick in the match against Belgium. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Haris Seferovic scored a hat-trick as Switzerland recovered from conceding two early goals to beat World Cup semi-finalists Belgium 5-2 on Sunday and qualify for the last four of the UEFA Nations League in remarkable fashion.

Belgium, who suffered only their second competitive defeat since Euro 2016, threatened to overwhelm Switzerland when Thorgan Hazard scored twice in the first 17 minutes, the first from an awful mistake by Nico Elvedi in the second minute.

But the Swiss hit back to lead 3-2 at halftime with a penalty from Ricardo Rodriguez and a brace from Seferovic before Elvedi atoned for his mistake by heading them further in front in the 62nd minute and then Seferovic added a fifth.

The two sides finished level at the top of Group Two in League A -- the top tier -- with nine points and the Swiss qualified on having the better head-to-head record after Belgium's 2-1 win in Brussels.

"I'm very proud of these young players," said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic. "After the second goal, we had to stay calm and not concede a third goal and try to get slowly back into the game."

Needing to win 1-0, 2-1 or otherwise by a two-goal margin, the Swiss -- beaten 1-0 at home by Qatar in a friendly on Wednesday -- made a terrible start to Petkovic's 50th match in charge.

A harmless Belgian pass into the area landed at the feet of Elvedi who carelessly deflected it into the path of Hazard and he dinked the ball over Yann Sommer.

Despite missing several key players including Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium quickly increased their lead.

Hazard, playing alongside his older brother Eden, collected a pass in midfield, advanced as Elvedi and Rodriguez backed off and fired a low shot past Sommer from the edge of the area.

Switzerland's Haris Seferovic scores their fifth goal to complete his hat-trick in the match against Belgium

IMAGE: Belgium's Eden Hazard, Dedryck Boyata and team mates look dejected after conceding their fifth goal. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

The contest appeared to be over but Switzerland were handed a lifeline in the 26th minute when Kevin Mbabu went down in a congested goal-line scramble and Rodriguez converted from the spot.

That completely changed the complexion of the game and five minutes later, Rodriguez lofted a high ball into the area towards Xherdan Shaqiri who cushioned a header into the path of Seferovic to score from close range.

Incredibly, Swiss went ahead one minute before the break with a goal that started with a Belgian corner.

The Swiss cleared the ball, broke and found Edimilson Fernandes on the right where he pulled the ball back into the area for Seferovic to sweep the ball past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The hosts still needed a another goal and it arrived in the 62nd minute as Shaqiri, who had an outstanding match, curled a low cross into the area and Elvedi made amends for his earlier howler with a glancing header.

An unmarked Seferovic sealed the win by heading in Mbabu's cross with six minutes left.

"We suddenly started to lose duels and gave away a stupid penalty foul. And suddenly the Swiss got hope for more," said Courtois.

"The feeling went into our team, that this cannot go wrong. But this is a high-level competitive match and hopefully not reaching the final four will teach us a lesson for the future."

Belarus clinch promotion from League D, Hungary surprise Finland

Hungary's Balazs Dzsudzsak celebrates after scoring against Finland

IMAGE: Hungary's Balazs Dzsudzsak celebrates after scoring against Finland. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters/span>

Belarus clinched promotion to UEFA Nations League C with a comfortable 2-0 win away to hapless San Marino on Sunday, while Luxembourg drew 1-1 away to Moldova in the other League D Group 2 game.

Elsewhere, Hungary were winners in League C over already-promoted Finland, while Greece suffered a shock defeat at home by Estonia.

Stanislaw Drahun scored his fifth goal of the competition and his 10th for his country to give visitors Belarus the lead in the eighth minute against San Marino, who have failed to take a single point in the Nations League.

Belarus only needed a draw to guarantee top spot in the group but they were still dominant in both halves and wasted several chances to increase their lead.

They finally did so early in the second half when Anton Saroka turned in a low cross from the lively Drahun, sealing first place with 14 points from six unbeaten games.

Luxembourg and Moldova each had faint hopes of grabbing the promotion place, requiring a win in their game as well as needing Belarus to lose in San Marino.

Radu Ginsari put hosts Moldova in front from the penalty spot in the 58th minute but their lead did not last long. Stefano Bensi levelled for Luxembourg by smashing the ball in off the crossbar, meaning his side finished second in the group on 10 points, while Moldova ended the campaign on nine.

Hungary took second spot in League C Group 2 by beating Finland 2-0 at home, climbing above Greece, who had a surprise 1-0 defeat at home by already-relegated Estonia.

First-half goals from Adam Szalai and Adam Nagy put Hungary on their way to a third victory in six games and inflicted a second-straight loss on group winners Finland, who had clinched promotion on Thursday despite losing 1-0 away to Greece.

Estonia meanwhile earned a first ever win over Greece thanks to an own goal from Vasilis Lampropoulos right before halftime, also giving the visitors their first win in the Nations League.

Finland finished top of the group with 12 points from six games, Hungary were second with 10, Greece came third with nine while Estonia had four.

Lazaro's stoppage time winner leaves N. Ireland pointless

Austria forward Valentino Lazaro curled in a stoppage time winner to give them a 2-1 win away to Northern Ireland who finished their UEFA Nations League campaign without a point on Sunday.

Xaver Schlager put Austria ahead four minutes after halftime, his first goal for his country, but Corry Evans levelled for the already-relegated hosts eight minutes later in the League B Group three match.

The game was heading for a draw until Marko Arnautovic found Lazaro and, despite a poor first touch, the 22-year-old curled his shot into the top corner from just inside the area to claim his first international goal.

Austria, already certain to finish second in the three-team group, finished their campaign with seven points from four games, three behind B3 winners Bosnia & Herzegovina.

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