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    Spain overcomes slow start, cruises past Albania in World Cup qualifiers

    Oct 10, 2016
    Andres Iniesta led Spain to the top of Group G in World Cup qualifying with an easy win over Albania. AP

    SPAIN got off to a slow start at Albania but eased to a 2-0 victory on Sunday (Monday, Manila time) in European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup behind second-half goals by Diego Costa and Manuel "Nolito" Agudo.

    Spain dominated from the start as expected, but it struggled to create many significant scoring chances against Albania in steady rain at the Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder.

    The first goal came after a mistake by Albanian goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, who mis-hit the ball while trying to clear it from the back and gave it to Vitolo. The striker passed to David Silva and he set up Costa's easy goal from inside the area in the 55th minute.

    The second goal was a well-placed shot by Nolito, who found the far corner from a tight angle after evading a defender inside the area in the 63rd.

    "It could seem like an easy game but we knew it was going to be complicated," Nolito said. "We really needed these three points."

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    Albania entered the match with a two-point advantage over Spain and Italy, which drew 1-1 when they met in Turin on Thursday.

    Spain coach Julen Lopetegui tried a different tactical scheme, playing with three defenders at the back and an extra man in midfield.

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    Captain Sergio Ramos had to be replaced near the end because of a knee injury.

    Spain has won all six games against Albania.

    "That is a normal loss," Albania midfielder Ledian Memushaj said. "It is very difficult to play against them."

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    In the other Group G match, Israel picked up its second consecutive win by beating winless Liechtenstein 2-1 behind a pair of goals by Tomer Hemed.

    The striker scored in the fourth and 16th minutes in the match in Jerusalem.

    Maximilian Goppel pulled the visitors closer early in the second half, but Israel hung on to the victory.

    Liechtenstein is proving to be the weaker team in the group after being outscored 12-1 in its first three matches.

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    Andres Iniesta led Spain to the top of Group G in World Cup qualifying with an easy win over Albania. AP
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