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Spain, Italy, Croatia win World Cup qualifiers

Spain and Italy eased past their opponents to stay unbeaten in Group G of the 2018 football World Cup European qualifiers, with Italian veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon playing the 1,000th game of his professional career.

Spain, Italy, Croatia win World Cup qualifiers
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Spain?s David Silva (right) vies for the ball with Israel?s Bibras Natcho

Madrid

Spain on Friday extended their unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifiers to 58 matches with a 4-1 home victory over Israel, as David Silva, Vitolo, Diego Costa and Isco all found the net, while Thiago Alcantara and Silva himself saw the ball hit the woodwork. 

Lior Refaelov scored a consolation goal for the visitors in the 76th minute in Sporting Gijon’s El Molinon Stadium. 

The match between Italy and Albania in Palermo had to be suspended after 57 minutes as Albania fans threw flares onto the field, but it didn’t spoil Gian Piero Ventura-coached home side’s 2-0 win at home. 

Four-time World Cup winners Italy therefore stretched their unbeaten record in World Cup qualifiers to 32 (last defeat on October 9, 2004 to Slovenia). 

Spain and Italy both claimed 13 points after five rounds, as the former led just on goal difference. Israel were placed third with nine points, followed by fourthranked Albania with six. 

Also in Group G, Macedonia tasted their first win after overcoming Liechtenstein 3-0. 

Serbia went atop Group D after beating Georgia 3-1, levelling on 11 points with Ireland, who recorded a goalless draw with 2016 Euro semi-finalists Wales. 

Austria beat Moldova 2-0 to claim the fourth position behind Wales on goal difference. 

Croatia led Group I with 13 points after edging past Ukraine 1-0, three points ahead of Iceland, who beat Kosovo 2-1. 

It was a strike of brilliance from Nikola Kalinic in the 38th minute that made a difference between Croatia and Ukraine. Croatian captain Luka Modric initiated the play with his pass to Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic who flicked the ball with his heel to Kalinic in the heart of the box. 

Fiorentina striker Kalinic needed just a split second to turn around and put the ball in the top left corner to beat Ukrainian keeper Andriy Pyatov.

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