Isco inspires sensational Spain

Spain all-but-booked their place at the 2018 World Cup on Saturday as an inspirational Isco scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Italy. 

Relive all the action at the Santiago Bernabeu as it unfolded with Football Espana's liveblog!

Italy were simply no match for Spain, who emerged victorious thanks to two stunning strikes from Isco, before Alvaro Morata finished off the rout in the second half.

Marco Asensio started as a false 9 for Spain against an ultra-attacking Italy, who lined up in a 4-2-4 formation, aware that the winners would almost certainly qualify for the tournament in Russia.

La Roja drew 1-1 with Italy in the reverse fixture at Juventus' Allianz Stadium last year and had not beaten the Azzurri competitively since thrashing them 4-0 in the Euro 2012 Final.

The first few minutes promised a feisty encounter, unti lsco’s delightful free kick in just the 13th minute set the tone for the next 80.

It could’ve been very different, had Andrea Belotti powered his header past David de Gea, but the goalkeeper was on hand to push the ball away.

Gerard Pique, meanwhile, was given a fair deal by the Bernabeu faithful, despite his Barcelona loyalties. The defender was unmarked when he met Dani Carvajal’s cross from the right, but he sent his free header over.

Belotti appeared to be level with Pique and away in the clear from a long ball, but the linesman disagreed and Isco went on to angle a low drive past Gianluigi Buffon from outside the box.

Italy did show something of a response at the beginning of the restart as Lorenzo Insigne was free when he received a cutback on the edge of Spain’s area, but De Gea kept out the forward’s side-footer.

Their improvement was short-lived, however. Asensio tried his luck from distance after some neat play down the right, but his effort whistled just wide of Buffon’s near post.

The Azzurri did have the ball in De Gea’s net, but Ciro Immobile’s finish was correctly adjudged offside, the striker having crept several yards back into play.

Isco, for his part, had arguably his best game in a Spain shirt, nutmegging Marco Verratti not once but twice. He slipped in Dani Carvajal down the right, but the full-back’s shot from point-blank range was batted away by Buffon.

Sergio Ramos then became the unlikely source of La Roja’s third and final goal as he broke away down the far right, before squaring an inch-perfect ball for substitute Morata to tap home.

Morata soon flicked in his second from an angled cross, but the striker was a couple of yards offside as Isco proceeded to make way for the returning David Villa – three years after his last international appearance.

Spain 3-0 Italy

Isco 13, 40, Morata 77

Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Koke, Busquets, Iniesta (Morata 72); Isco (Villa 89), Asensio (Saul 78), Silva

Italy: Buffon; Darmian, Barzagli, Bonucci, Spinazzola; De Rossi, Verratti; Candreva (Bernardeschi 70), Belotti (Eder 70), Immobile (Gabbiadini 78), Insigne

Referee: Kuipers (NED)

Tags 2018 World Cup Azzurri Italy Spain