Spain v Italy shaping up as winner-takes-all tie

Spain striker Diego Costa (No. 19) scoring the winner in their 2-1 away win over Macedonia to stay top of Group G. With a goal difference of four separating Spain and Italy, their crunch Sept 2 clash at the Santiago Bernabeu promises to be a cagey af
Spain striker Diego Costa (No. 19) scoring the winner in their 2-1 away win over Macedonia to stay top of Group G. With a goal difference of four separating Spain and Italy, their crunch Sept 2 clash at the Santiago Bernabeu promises to be a cagey affair.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

UDINE (Italy) • Manolo Gabbiadini insisted Italy will not settle for a draw in Spain when the Group G leaders meet in their next World Cup qualifier at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sept 2.

The two European giants remain locked on 16 points after Italy saw off Liechtenstein 5-0 in Udine. Spain kept their noses in front - by goal difference of four - in the fight for automatic qualification for next year's Finals in Russia as David Silva and Diego Costa were on target in a 2-1 win in Macedonia on Sunday.

"Can we win in Madrid? Of course we can do it, we're not any old team," Gabbiadini told Italian sports TV channel Rai Sport.

"We have to win every game and at the end of the day, we'll see where we stand. Everyone is really eager to make their mark, and help out the team, which is important if we want to achieve important objectives."

Gabbiadini came off the bench to score the final goal at the Dacia Arena after Lorenzo Insigne produced a masterpiece to set Italy on the way.

Insigne flicked Leonardo Spinazzola's cross on to his chest, then lobbed the ball over keeper Peter Jehle and in off the post without letting it touch the ground.

Andrea Belotti, Eder and Federico Bernardeschi also netted against the minnows.

Spain had a much more uncomfortable end to their game, but victory extended Julen Lopetegui's unbeaten record as Spain boss since replacing Vicente del Bosque just under a year ago.

"The goal was to get the three points and we did. Other than the goal, we didn't suffer," said Lopetegui of Stefan Ristovski's strike.

"But it is true that just a one-goal difference made us struggle more than expected after the first half."

Spain know they will have to up their game when they face Italy, who held them to a 1-1 draw in Turin in October.

"It is going to be the most important game of the group," midfielder Isco told Spanish TV station Teledeporte. "But we are at home, we hope the (Santiago) Bernabeu will be a fortress, and at the end of the day, it is in our hands."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Spain v Italy shaping up as winner-takes-all tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe