Spain overcame a spirited Albania with second half goals from Diego Costa and Nolito sealing a deserved victory - but there was concern as captain Sergio Ramos suffered a knee injury late on.
Albania defended superbly in the first half, with goalkeeper Etrit Berisha making a brilliant stop to deny Vitolo, as Spain looked to be in for a frustrating night at the Loro Borici stadium.
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But Berisha, who had been excellent, gifted Spain the opener. His poor clearance went straight to Vitolo, who found David Silva, and his square pass allowed Costa to stroke in for the easiest of finishes.
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Nolito doubled Spain’s lead a couple of minutes after coming off the bench, riding a challenge and bending a low shot into the far bottom corner.
The victory puts Spain top of Group G, level on points with Italy and one ahead of Albania and Israel, but the win was soured by an injured sustained by Ramos, who was forced to limp off ten minutes from the end after falling awkwardly.

TALKING POINT

How bad is Sergio Ramos’s injury? Well, he walked off the field rather than taken off by a stretcher, so that has to be a positive sign. But the Spain captain fell awkwardly and immediately signalled to the bench to be replaced after appearing to twist his knee. Real Madrid travel to Real Betis this Saturday, and he already looks a doubt for that game, at least.

Spain defender Sergio Ramos

Image credit: AFP

MAN OF THE MATCH

David Silva (Spain) – Brought his club form to the national team, conducting Spain’s play for long periods. Played a key role in both goals and has now scored or assisted six of Spain’s last 12 goals. Very rarely has a bad game, and tonight was another reminder of how important he is to this Spain team.

PLAYER RATINGS

Albania: Berisha 6, Hysaj 7, Djimsiti 6, Mavraj 7, Agolli 6, Xhaka 7, Lila 6, Memushaj 6, Roshi 7, Lenjani 6, Balaj 6. Subs: Aliji 6, Hyka 6, Basha 6.
Spain: De Gea 6, Ramos 7, Pique 7, Monreal 7, Busquets 7, Koke 7, Iniesta 7, Thiago 7, Silva 8, Vitolo 7, Costa 7. Subs: Nolito 7, Isco n/a, Martinez n/a

Spain's players celebrate their second goal

Image credit: Reuters

KEY MOMENTS

18’ VITOLO CHANCE! Superb build-up by Spain as Thiago Alcantara lays off David Silva's pass to Vitolo, who bends a good shot towards the bottom corner - but Berisha makes an excellent save low to his left to turn it around the post.
33’ COSTA CHANCE! Ramos puts in a teasing cross from the right that Costa should head in, but he somehow fails to even make contact. Maybe he was put off by the defender, but that was a big chance.
55’ GOAL! Albania 0-1 Spain: Costa scores after a bad mistake by Berisha. The Albania keeper passes it straight to Vitolo, who slides the ball into Silva, who squares to Costa, who simply passes it into the empty net.
63’ GOAL! Albania 0-2 Spain: Nolito scores! The substitute scores a couple of minutes after coming on. He collects Monreal's pass, rides a challenge to get into a shooting position and bends the ball into the bottom corner.

Spain's players celebrate their second goal

Image credit: Reuters

KEY STATS

Spain are now unbeaten in their last 56 World Cup qualifying matches (W42-D13), the longest unbeaten run ever in the competition. Their last defeat was on 31 March 1993, when Denmark won 1-0 at home.
Diego Costa now has nine goals in 11 games for club and country this season.
Nolito scored his sixth goal for Spain in his 15th appearance.
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