Spain maintained their unbeaten record in 2018 World Cup qualifying with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Group G rivals Israel in Gijon on Friday.
Spain boss Julen Lopetegui named the early favourites of his reign at El Molinon, with Vitolo picked ahead of Pedro Rodriguez, although Andres Iniesta was preferred to Koke.
La Roja dominated possession from the outset in Gijon, finishing the game with 72 percent of the ball. Thiago Alcantara cracked an early shot at Ofir Marciano’s goal from just outside the Israel box, which took a deflection and crashed against the crossbar.
At the other end, Eran Zahavi got away from Gerard Pique and seemingly had just David de Gea to beat, but the defender made up ground on the Guangzhou Evergrande attacker just in time.
Nonetheless, Jordi Alba nutmegged his opponent with a through ball for David Silva, who angled an unstoppable strike past Marciano, who plied his trade for second-tier Scottish side Hibernian.
Dani Carvajal was then clipped from behind by Ben Haim II for a Spanish free kick down the right, but it resulted in an away breakaway. Lior Refaelov glanced a left-wing delivery towards the bottom-right corner of De Gea’s goal, but the goalkeeper flew across to turn the ball around the post.
Just as quickly, La Roja doubled their lead on the cusp of half-time through Vitolo, who was level when he latched onto a slide-rule ball in the Israel box. His shot slipped through Marciano’s gloves and over the line.
Almost immediately after the restart, Diego Costa was unmarked when he met Carvajal’s cross at the far post, but the Chelsea striker could only guide his header wide.
Costa wouldn’t pass up a second bite of the cherry, however, as he scored his fourth goal in as many qualifiers via another header, this time at the back post, which bounced into the back of Marciano’s net.
The introduction of Koke saw the hosts cede some of their control, and Refaelov was at the right place at the right time to fire a rebound from a saved header into the roof of De Gea’s net for 3-1.
Spain looked to swiftly restore their three-goal lead through Vitolo, who was onside from another Alba through ball, but the Sevilla winger couldn’t slide into an empty net, albeit from a tight angle.
Still, a beautifully-crafted move on the edge of Israel’s box was slotted into the bottom-left corner by substitute Isco as La Roja stayed top of Group G by the virtue of goal difference.
Spain 4-1 Israel
Silva 13, Vitolo 45, Costa 51, Isco 88 (S) Refaelov 76 (I)
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Iniesta (Isco 70), Busquets, Thiago (Koke 63); Silva, Costa, Vitolo (Aspas 84)
Israel: Marciano; Dasa, Tibi (Tawatha 19), Tzedek, Gershon; Natcho; Refaelov, Cohen, Einbinder (Keltjens 60); Ben Haim II (Hemed 64); Zahavi
Referee: Oliver (ENG)
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