2018 World Cup Qualifying - UEFA, Group Stage
  • Diego Costa (55')
  • Nolito (63')

Spain seize control of Group G with away win over Albania

Spain took over as Group G leaders after spoiling previous incumbent Albania's 100 percent record with a 2-0 win in Shkoder.

The hosts, who were the early pacesetters after victories over minnows Macedonia and Liechtenstein, attempted to frustrate Julen Lopetegui's side from the off.

But when their resistance was finally broken just before the hour, Spain cruised through to the finish with goals from Diego Costa and Nolito.

Despite enjoying 71 percent possession in the first half, the home side were content for it to be goalless at the break, thanks to a couple of good saves from Etrit Berisha.

However, such tactics are difficult to extend over 90 minutes against world-class talent and the pressure finally told 10 minutes after the interval when an error by Berisha led to the crucial breakthrough.

The goalkeeper's rushed poor clearance was quickly seized upon by Vitolo, who threaded through a ball to David Silva, timing his run perfectly to avoid an offside flag.

Faced with a one-on-one with Berisha, the Manchester City playmaker unselfishly squared for Costa to score into an empty net.

It was a crushing blow to Albania and there was little surprise it led to a second eight minutes later.

This time it was all down to substitute Nolito, who scored just three minutes after his arrival from the bench.

With the Albania penalty area flooded by red shirts the City winger somehow found space for himself to collect Nacho Monreal's pass, cutting in from the left to plant a low right-footed shot past Berisha and inside the far post.

Victory saw them leapfrog Albania and Israel to go top of the group with a plus-10 goal difference from fellow European heavyweights Italy, who came from behind to score a stoppage-time winner against Macedonia.