Spain, Wales win, Kosovo force a draw

Kosovo's first goal, scored on their competitive debut, came courtesy of midfielder Valon Berisha in a 1-1 draw with Finland.
Kosovo's first goal, scored on their competitive debut, came courtesy of midfielder Valon Berisha in a 1-1 draw with Finland.

PARIS • Spain began life under new coach Julen Lopetegui in perfect style, while Gareth Bale inspired Euro 2016 sensations Wales, as Kosovo earned a historic point in World Cup football qualifying on Monday.

Lopetegui enjoyed a perfect competitive debut as Diego Costa, David Silva and Alvaro Morata all hit doubles in an 8-0 drubbing of Liechtenstein in Leon.

In Cardiff, Real Madrid forward Bale teed up Sam Vokes for a 38th-minute opener and then scored his 23rd and 24th international goals either side of an effort by Joe Allen in a 4-0 crushing of Moldova.

  • Kosovo's first goal, scored on their competitive debut, came courtesy of midfielder Valon Berisha in a 1-1 draw with Finland.

But the first international goal for Daryl Murphy secured the Republic of Ireland a 2-2 draw with Serbia in Belgrade, while 10-man Italy beat Israel 3-1 in Haifa.

Arguably the performance of the night was in Turku, Finland, where Valon Berisha made history, scoring Kosovo's first goal on their competitive debut as they came from behind to draw 1-1 away with Finland.

The goal gave Kosovo a precious point in Group I after Paulus Arajuuri had put Finland in front from close range in the 18th minute.

Kosovo were accepted into Fifa in May, and this was a remarkable result given that football's governing body only gave their approval for a host of players to represent the Balkan outfit earlier on Monday.

Among those given the green light at the last minute were goalkeeper and captain Samir Ujkani, previously capped by Albania; Albert Bunjaku, who featured for Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup; and Berisha, who was playing for Norway as recently as June.

Spain's comprehensive win put them atop Group G ahead of Italy on goal difference.

"We reaped our rewards in the second half for what we did right in the first half," said Lopetegui. "I am happy. They are the first three points and it was important to start well."

In Israel, new Italian manager Giampiero Ventura was satisfied by his debut win with goals from Graziano Pelle, Antonio Candreva from the penalty spot, and Ciro Immobile, after veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini was sent off in the 55th minute.

Spain and Italy meet in their next qualifier in Turin on Oct 6.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Spain, Wales win, Kosovo force a draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe