World Cup Qualifying Roundup: Isco Scores Twice as Spain Trounce Italy While Wales Also Win
The international break perhaps came to soon for lovers of club football, but the manner in which the goals have been flowing will have gone a long way to keeping fans satisfied.
Saturday's World Cup qualifying schedule promised a few matches to savour, none more so than by far the biggest clash of the evening, Spain vs Italy - and it did not disappoint.
While the Spaniards' starting line-up did not feature any recognised strikers (there was no Alvaro Morata or a recently recalled David Villa) but it didn't seem to effect anything; the World Cup and multiple European Championship winners came out all guns blazing, and Isco in particular had a fine first-half.
Real Madrid's gem of a midfielder opened the scoring for his country with a neat right-footed free kick that zinged past Gianluigi Buffon in the 13th minute; he then used his left foot to double Spain's lead five minutes from half-time, shooting from outside of the box to beat the Italian stopper once more. The evergreen Andres Iniesta, earning his 120th (!) cap on the night, provided the assist.
While Italy looked more threatening in the second-half, with De Rossi and Verratti exerting a little more influence on the midfield, in truth, the result was never really in doubt.
Indeed, following a couple of half chances, one most notably for Andrea Belotti, who was unable to control a fizzing ball following a clever dummy from his teammate, Italy finally succumbed to the inevitable.
A marauding run down the right from Spain captain Sergio Ramos (reminding us of the days when he played almost exclusively at right back) culminated in an inch perfect cross to the back post - and there was Chelsea's new striker Alvaro Morata to complete the simple task of tapping it home.
Overall, it was an impressive display by Spain, but Italy won't be too disheartened; there is some genuine quality in this new-look squad, and it will be a great surprise if they don't join Spain in qualifying from the group.
Elsewhere, Georgia and the Republic of Ireland were made to settle for a 1-1 draw after Valeri Qazaishvili scored to cancel out Shane Duffy's 4th minute strike.
Serbia recorded a convincing 3-0 win over Moldova thanks to goals from Mijat Gacinovic, Aleksandar Kolarov and Newcastle's suspended man Aleksandar Mitrovic. Albania and Finland also emerged as winners with the respective scoreline's of 2-0 and 1-0, over Liechtenstein and Iceland.
In arguably the second biggest game of the night, Gareth Bale's Wales had to wait until the 74th minute and a wonder strike from highly promising Liverpool starlet Ben Woodburn to seal the points against a spirited Austria side. Still, a 1-0 win should never be sniffed at and Wales boss Chris Coleman will no doubt be delighted with three more precious point.
Sunday promises even more great viewing, with Belgium, Portugal, France and Holland all in action.
Full Results Table
|Georgia||1 - 1||Rep. of Ireland|
|Serbia||3 - 0||Moldova|
|Albania||2 - 0||Liechtenstein|
|Finland||1 - 0||Iceland|
|Wales||1 - 0||Australia|
|Israel||0 - 0||Macedonia|
|Spain||3 - 0||Italy|
|Ukraine||2 - 0||Turkey|