October 06, 2016

TURIN, Italy (AP) Spain appeared to have started its new era better than Italy but the Azzurri maintained their unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers with a 1-1 draw in Turin on Thursday.

Spain lost to Italy in the round of 16 at the European Championship, and was set for a measure of revenge when Vitolo scored in the 55th minute following a rare mistake from veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

But Daniele De Rossi converted a penalty with eight minutes remaining after Eder was tripped by Sergio Ramos, and preserved his team's formidable home record. Italy has won 43 World Cup qualifiers, drawing the other seven.

''We made a good impression here,'' Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said. ''Italy is strong and, if you let them, their players can hurt you. ... I am satisfied, we showed character and ambition. We are on the right path.''

Spain and Italy are level on points in Group G after winning their opening qualifiers. Only the top team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia automatically.

This was the first real test for both sides after changing coaches after Euro 2016.

The 2-0 defeat to Italy marked the end of Vicente del Bosque's long and successful stint as Spain's manager, with Lopetegui tasked with rejuvenating a team that won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 and 2012 Euros.

Gian Piero Ventura replaced Antonio Conte, who left for Chelsea after Italy's quarterfinal exit to Germany.

Under Lopetegui, Spain beat Belgium 2-0 in a friendly, and crushed Lichtenstein 8-0.

Ventura began his time in charge with a 3-1 defeat to France before winning his first competitive match by the same scoreline, in Israel.

Italy was without a crucial member of its Juventus trio of defenders as Giorgio Chiellini, who scored the opening goal in Paris, was suspended following his red card against Israel.

Alessio Romagnoli took up his place alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, and Italy's altered defense did well to withstand the Spanish onslaught as the Azzurri spent the majority of the first period entrenched in its own half.

''A few of our players were too nervous at the beginning because every time we won the ball we lost it immediately after,'' Ventura said. ''Then, fortunately, we loosened up and we managed to create chances to equalize and even win the match.

''We knew they would dominate possession, but we were never in huge difficulty. We all know how the goal was scored and Buffon didn't have to make other saves. Spain was always favorite but this match showed us that, if we want, we can take control, we can trouble anyone, putting a few things right.''

Gerard Pique twice went close to breaking the deadlock but his header was deflected wide in the 19th. The defender had an even better opportunity six minutes later when Sergio Ramos nodded Dani Carvajal's cross back across goal but headed straight at Buffon.

Spain's pressure paid off when Vitolo sprung the offside trap and Buffon rushed out to clear but completely missed the ball, allowing Vitolo to deposit into the empty net.

That sparked Italy back to life, and Graziano Pelled headed Mattia De Sciglio's cross wide of the left post.

Italy got back on level terms when Ramos tripped Eder and referee Filx Brych pointed to the spot. De Rossi coolly slotted into the bottom left corner.


Albania moved to the top after winning in Lichtenstein 2-0 to maintain its perfect start to its qualifying campaign.

Goalkeeper Peter Jehle turned into his own net, and Bekim Balaj, who also netted the winner against Macedonia, scored in the 71st.

Israel moved into fourth with a 2-1 victory in Macedonia.

Tomer Hemed and Tal Ben Haim scored in the first half for Israel but Ilija Nestorovski got Macedonia back into the match shortly after the hour.

Israel defender Eitan Tibi was sent off in stoppage time.

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