Spain edges Belarus in Del Bosque's 100th match in charge
BORISOV, Belarus (AP) — David Silva scored to give Spain a 1-0 win against Belarus in coach Vicente del Bosque's 100th match in charge on Sunday, as the two-time defending champion moved closer to qualifying for Euro 2016.
Silva rewarded Spain's strong first-half performance with a goal just before the break, but Iker Casillas had to protect Spain's advantage with timely saves in the second half.
It was Spain's 78th victory, to go with eight draws and 14 losses, since Del Bosque took over in August 2008.
Spain remained in second place in Group C, three points behind leader Slovakia after its 2-1 win over Macedonia.
Slovakia made it six wins in as many qualifiers, while Ukraine beat Luxembourg 3-0 to stay in third place, three points adrift of Spain. Belarus was left on four points, ahead of Macedonia with three and Luxembourg with one.
Only Spain's poor finishing kept the visitors from going ahead earlier in Borisov.
Pedro Rodriguez, Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas all sent shots into the arms of goalkeeper Andrei Gorbunov, who also saw Jordi Alba's strike just miss the corner of this net in the 32nd.
Alvaro Morata earned a free kick that led to Spain's breakthrough in the 45th. Gorbunov left his line in a vain attempt to reach Fabregas' cross to the far post for Silva, who smashed the ball in off a defender.
Overwhelmed in the first half, Belarus forced Spain to work to hold onto the three points.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas used his left boot to block Belarus' first chance for Sergei Kornilenko after Aleksandr Hleb set him up in the 49th.
Maksim Bordachev made the home fans groan when he squandered a shot from inside the box shortly before Casillas parried Ivan Maevski effort from long range in the 62nd.
Spain eventually settled down and Gorbunov denied Silva, Santi Cazorla and Morata to keep Belarus in the game.
In Zilina, Kornel Salata started in place of injured defender Jan Durica and soon made his mark by heading in Slovakia's eighth-minute opener.
Marek Hamsik made it 2-0 in the 38th before Arijan Ademi pulled one back for Macedonia in the 69th.
In Lviv, Ukraine eased past Luxembourg after a scoreless first half, with goals from Artem Kravets, Denys Garmash and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Luxembourg's winless streak away from home reached 17 matches, dating back to 2008.
After a long break, Spain will host Slovakia on Sept. 5 in a match that could decide the group winner.
The top two teams of the nine groups and the best third-place finisher qualify for the final phase of the tournament in France next summer. Another eight teams enter through a playoff round.