Dominant Spain held 1-1 in Italy, Croatia trashes Kosovo 6-0

TURIN, Italy (AP) " Former world champions Italy and Spain played to 1-1 on Thursday, giving a chance for unheralded Albania to take the lead in their Europe qualifying group.

Elsewhere, Mario Mandzukic bagged a hat trick as Croatia beat up Kosovo 6-0, while Wales conceded the lead twice away in Austria in a draw.



Spain lost to Italy in the round of 16 at the European Championship, and was set for a measure of revenge in Turin.

Spain's 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.

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.

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.

Italy visits Macedonia on Sunday, when Spain travels to Albania.


Mandzukic proved unstoppable, ruthlessly exploiting Kosovo's inexperience and scoring his three in the first 35 minutes. However, celebrating Croat fans spoiled their team's show by chanting in Serbo-Croatian, "Kill, kill the Serbs" in the second half, and they were echoed and followed by Kosovo fans, too, in Albanian.

Kosovo became a UEFA member in May, joined FIFA a week later, and was fast-tracked into World Cup qualifying though many nations still have not recognized it.

After Kosovo earned a credible draw at Finland last month, this was its first competitive home game but played in Albania's northern city of Shkodra, as Kosovo has no stadium certified by UEFA.

Croatia was without star midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric but had another star available: Mandzukic needed just six minutes to open the scoring off a pass from Andrej Kramaric.

Mandzukic met Ivan Perisic's cross to head home and double the lead, and completed his hat trick with another header 10 minutes before the interval, this time using a cross from Sime Vrsaljko, for his 27th goal in 71 internationals.

With the damage done and the result beyond doubt early, Mandzukic was substituted by Nikola Kalinic in the 58th.

"It's better it occurred today, and I am convinced we shall represent ourselves better at the next match," Kosovo midfielder Bernart Berisha said. "There was no good communication between the defense and the midfielders."

Iceland rallied in the final minutes to earn its first victory in qualifying, 3-2 over Finland.

Alfred Finnbogason leveled the score in the final minute of the match, and Ragnar Sigurdsson scored the winner deep into stoppage time for the surprise Euro 2016 quarterfinalist.

Hakan Calhanoglu converted from the spot nine minutes from time to salvage a 2-2 draw against Ukraine.

Croatia is tied atop Group I with Iceland, on four points. Ukraine and Turkey have two points after their 2-2 draw. Kosovo is at the bottom with one.


Marko Arnautovic twice came to Austria's rescue to draw 2-2 with Wales in the group where Wales, Serbia, Austria, and Ireland are separated only on goal difference at the top.

Knowing the Euro 2016 semifinalists underperformed, it was a frustrating night for Gareth Bale.

"We know we weren't at our best tonight " it was a difficult game," Bale told British broadcaster Sky Sports. "But this is what we've grown up to do. We grind out results when we need them.

"When we don't play well, we defend solidly as a team, and we get something from the game. We are a little bit frustrated."

Wales took the lead with a slick goal in the 22nd minute, with Joe Allen volleying into the net. It was canceled out inside six minutes by Stoke teammate Arnautovic's downward header.

Austria conceded again in clumsy circumstances just before halftime. Sam Vokes flicked on Bale's long throw-in, James Chester prodded goalward, and goalkeeper Robert Almer saved. But the rebound hit Kevin Wimmer, who inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net.

Three minutes in the second half, though, Arnautovic equalized again after seizing on Allen's misdirected pass and darting through a huge hole in the Wales defense.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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