Euro Qualifying: Sweden, Spain, Ukraine come out winners
David Silva scored the only goal as Spain claimed a 1-0 win over Belarus in Euro 2016 qualifying Group C on Sunday night.
The Manchester City midfielder hit the target on the stroke of half-time to keep Spain in second place behind Slovakia.
Vicente del Bosque’s side have now won five and lost just one of their qualifying campaign to amass 15 points, three behind unbeaten Slovakia, who claimed a 2-1 win over Macedonia.
Spain, who are currently ranked 10th in the world, were made to toil by Belarus, who sit 70 places below them in the worldwide pecking order.
However, despite a frustrating first half which saw Alvaro Morata shoot wide and Belarus keeper Andrey Gorbunov deny a fantastic shot by Pedro, Spain took a one-goal advantage into the break thanks to Silva.
The playmaker was quick to capitalize when Gorbunov came off his line to fend away a ball in by Cesc Fabregas in the 45th minute and got nowhere near it, with Silva able to control the ball at the far post before drilling it into the net.
If the visitors expected the floodgates to open in the second period then they were to be sorely disappointed, as Gorbunov saved another Morata effort before Sergey Kornilenko was unlucky not to draw Belarus level in the 62nd when Iker Casillas fumbled a shot.
Santi Cazorla called Gorbunov into action again with just less than 20 minutes on the clock but the Belarus stopper kept the Arsenal man at bay before making a great save with his feet to deny Silva a second.
As the clock wound down, Spain refused to give up, as did Belarus defender Alyaksandr Martynovich, who blocked Vitolo’s stoppage-time strike.
Morata then had a brilliant shot saved by the excellent Gorbunov, but with Silva’s goal they still had enough to win the game and keep the pressure on Slovakia, while Belarus remain fourth in the group.
Sweden 3-1 Montenegro
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice just before half-time as Sweden defeated Montenegro 3-1 in their Euro 2016 qualifying Group G clash at the Friends Arena in Solna.
Following Russia’s defeat to leaders Austria earlier on Sunday, the Swedes took full advantage to open up a four-point gap over third place.
Montenegro created an early chance when Dejan Damjanovic headed wide and then left-back Zarko Tomasevic went close following a corner.
Sweden soon began to find openings themselves, with Ibrahimovic testing Montenegro goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic, before the hosts swept into the lead on 38 minutes when Marcus Berg headed in a cross from Albin Ekdal.
Before the visitors could regroup, they were 2-0 down.
Ibrahimovic collected the ball on the left before cutting inside and drilling a low shot through the penalty area and into the far corner.
Sweden made it 3-0 a minute before the break.
Sebastian Larsson sent a long ball forward to release Ibrahimovic through one-on-one, the Paris St Germain cooling slotting the ball into the net again.
To their credit, Montenegro rallied and looked to make a game of it as Damjanovic called Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson into action at the start of the second half.
Montenegro reduced the deficit when Damjanovic converted from the penalty spot after Stefan Mugosa was fouled by Erik Johansson.
Isaksson was kept busy during the closing stages as Sweden saw out the match and moved to within four points of Austria, whom they host in September.
Lithuania 1-2 Switzerland
Switzerland moved up to second in Group E as they claimed a 2-1 comeback victory over Lithuania in Sunday’s European Championship qualifier at Zalgiris Stadium.
Fedor Cernych handed the hosts a shock lead against the run of play midway through the second half, but Josip Drmic netted an equaliser five minutes later before Xherdan Shaqiri fired home a late winner to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches.
The result in Vilnius sees the Swiss move up a spot into second where they trail leaders England by six points, while Igoris Pankratjevas’ hosts drop down to fifth following Estonia’s 2-0 win over bottom side San Marino.
Ukraine 3-0 Luxembourg
Ukraine kept the pressure on the top two with a comfortable 3-0 victory from a dominant performance against Luxembourg in their Euro 2016 qualifying Group C clash at Arena Lviv on Sunday.
The home side began to apply the pressure early on but it took three second-half goals – from Artem Kravets, Denys Garmash and Yevhen Konoplyanka – to seal all three points to extend their unbeaten run to three matches.
The result leaves Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side level on points with second placed Spain, with group leaders Slovenia three points further ahead before their respective matches on Sunday evening. Luxembourg remained bottom of the standings with just one point from their six matches.
Slovakia 2-1 Macedonia
Slovakia remained three points clear of Spain at the top of European Championship qualifying Group C thanks to a 2-1 victory over FYR Macedonia in Zilina on Sunday evening.
First-half goals from Kornel Salata and Marek Hamsik put the hosts in control and, although Arijan Ademi halved the deficit midway through the second period, Ferhan Hasani’s late red card put paid to any hopes of an equalizer.
It took less than eight minutes for Salata – playing in place of the Jan Durica – to make the breakthrough, the Slovan Bratislava defender beating the offside trap and nodding home from Peter Pekarik’s headed assist after a free-kick had only been partially cleared.
Napoli midfielder Hamsik deservedly made it 2-0 seven minutes before the break, latching onto Robert Mak’s neat through-ball and coolly firing into the bottom-left corner.
Both Salata and Hamsik had chances to add to their tallies after the interval, but failed to test visiting goalkeeper Tomislav Pacovski.
And Ademi made things interesting in the 69th minute when he stabbed home from close range after Agim Ibraimi’s corner to the front post had been nodded on by Muarem Muarem – the first goal conceded by Matus Kozacik in 260 minutes.
Hasani saw red six minutes from the end, though, his foul on Tomas Hubocan deemed worthy of a second yellow card, and the 10 men could make no further inroads.