Associated Press
Monday September 5th, 2016

LEON, Spain (AP) — Diego Costa scored a goal in each half to lead Spain to an 8-0 rout of Lichtenstein in Group G of European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Monday.

Sergi Roberto, David Silva, Victor "Vitolo" Machin and Alvaro Morata also scored for Spain in its first competitive match under new coach Julen Lopetegui, who replaced Vicente del Bosque last month after the team's elimination in the round of 16 at the European Championship.

Costa scored with headers in the 10th and 66th minutes in the northern city of Leon. He had netted only one previous goal for Spain, nearly two years ago against Luxembourg in qualifying for Euro 2016. Del Bosque had left the Chelsea striker out of the squad that travelled to France for the tournament earlier this year.

Morata also scored twice, in the 82nd and 83rd minutes, after replacing Costa midway through the second half. Roberto netted his goal in the 55th, Silva added to the lead in the 59th and closed the scoring in injury time, while Vitolo got on the scoresheet on the hour.

Silva had also scored twice in Spain's 2-0 win over Belgium in a friendly last week, a match that marked Lopetegui's debut with the national team.

Monday's result was Spain's biggest win over Lichtenstein, surpassing the 6-0 win from 2011 in qualifying for Euro 2012.

Planet Futbol
World Cup qualifying marks a new beginning for plenty of European powers

Elsewhere in Group G:


Italy extended its unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifiers to 28 matches despite being reduced to 10 men in Haifa, after defender Giorgio Chiellini was sent off following a second yellow card in the 55th minute.

Chiellini will now be suspended for the much-anticipated match against Spain in the next round on Oct. 6.

Graziano Pelle opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Antonio Candreva doubled Italy's lead from the spot in the 31st.

Ben-Haim pulled one back for Israel four minutes later, chipping Gianluigi Buffon, but Ciro Immobile sealed the result in the 83rd.

ALBANIA 1, MACEDONIA 1 (Suspended)

Albania's match with Macedonia was suspended in the 77th minute because of heavy rain with the teams drawing 1-1.

It was not immediately clear when the game would continue, although some reports said it would resume on Tuesday.

Armando Sadiku opened the scoring for Albania in the ninth minute and Ezdjan Alioski equalized in the 51st.

The match was being played at the newly-renovated stadium in Shkodra, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital Tirana.

Planet Futbol
Late goal gives Allardyce winning start to England reign in WQ qualifying



TURKU, Finland (AP) — Kosovo kicked off its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Finland on Monday in a big night for the tiny Balkan nation.

It was a maiden competitive match for Kosovo as a new FIFA member, after it was accepted together with Gibraltar in May and fast-tracked into the 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Its first official match was a 2-0 victory in a friendly over the Faroe Islands on June 3.

Midfielder Valon Berisha converted a penalty kick in the 60th minute to salvage the point only hours after FIFA confirmed he and five other players were allowed to represent Kosovo.

The case of Berisha, who played for Norway before Kosovo gained FIFA and UEFA membership in May, was the last one resolved. The five others previously represented Albania.

Kosovo's entry into FIFA membership has tested the rules on switching allegiance. Created to regulate typical cases in which players had nationality of two existing FIFA member federations, the rules have struggled to cope with a new national team like Kosovo.

FIFA had in recent months approved requests from nine Kosovo players who had represented six different European countries, including Albania, Germany and Switzerland.

Finland, which is seeking its first World Cup appearance, had taken the lead in the 18th minute through Paulus Arajuuri.

Kosovo hosts Croatia on Oct. 6, three days before it plays Ukraine, which does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.


Turkey held Croatia to a draw in a rematch of their group stage game at the 2016 European Championship, which was won 1-0 by Croatia.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic gave Croatia the lead with a penalty one minute before the interval at an empty Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. FIFA ordered Croatia to play two home qualifiers behind closed doors as punishment for persistent incidents of racism and offensive behavior by fans.

Hakan Calhanoglu tied the match just moments later on a deflected free kick in first-half stoppage time.


Iceland, which is bidding to become the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup, took home a point from its opening qualifying match in Ukraine.

The surprise Euro 2016 quarterfinalist took the lead five minutes into the match thanks to Alfred Finnbogason.

But Andriy Yarmolenko equalized for Ukraine four minutes before halftime at Kiev's Olympic Stadium, which was empty because of a FIFA punishment following racist behavior from fans.

Planet Futbol
Germany begins World Cup defense with win over Norway in qualifying



CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Gareth Bale set Wales on the path to reaching its first World Cup since 1958 with a double strike and an assist in a 4-0 victory over Moldova at the start of qualifying on Monday.

The empathic display, albeit against a wretched Moldova side, was the first outing by the Welsh since they stunned the continent by reaching the European Championship semifinals in July.

"That was history," Bale said. "Now it's time to make some more."

Bale was the inspiration on the field in the Group D qualifier just as he was in France, taking his international tally to 24 goals—only four behind Wales' all-time record scorer Ian Rush.

Bale's first goal in Cardiff was one of the easiest he will ever be gifted.

A back pass from Moldova defender Ion Jardan was inexplicably sent into the path of Bale, the only Wales player in the visitors' half, four minutes into the second half. Bale darted forward with the ball before lifting it over the goalkeeper.

Jardan also assisted Bale's second goal in stoppage time. The Real Madrid forward was pushed over by the hapless Jardan in the penalty area and he converted from the spot.

In the first half, Bale provided the cross that was headed in by Sam Vokes for Wales' opener and he won the corner that Joe Allen scored from just before the break.


Martin Hinteregger headed in the opener and Marc Janko struck Austria's second before half time. Jano Ananidze pulled one back for Georgia late in the second half but Austria survived a nervy ending to match Wales by winning the opening qualifier.


At the age of 33 on his 24th Ireland appearance, Daryl Murphy's search for a first international goal ended. And the Newcastle forward couldn't have timed it better, netting the equalizer in the 80th minute in Serbia.

Jeff Hendrick had fired Ireland into a third-minute lead but Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic scored within five second-half minutes to give Serbia the advantage until Murphy's header.

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