Euro 2016 qualifiers: Spain smash Macedonia and Sweden hold Austria
A five goal thrashing, debuts and a raft of first international goals were just some of the highlights from Spain’s match with Macedonia and Austria’s encounter with Sweden, in our pick of the action from the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Spain 5-1 FYR Macedonia
David Silva starred as Spain, who are 5/1 to win Euro 2016, returned to form with their first win since the disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil. European minnows Macedonia were the victims of Vicente del Bosque’s ruthless and vengeful La Roja side, who were clearly keen to make amends for their previous friendly defeat to France.
In an accomplished team performance reminiscent of old times, vice-skipper Sergio Ramos was first to draw blood after Silva won the home team a penalty. Ramos then stepped up to help his side take the lead, cheekily lobbing stopper Tome Pacovski after a stuttering run-up.
Perhaps inspired by his confidence, slick Spain put their World Cup hangover and nerves firmly behind them as debutant Paco Alcacer pounced to volley home Juanfran’s cross and make it 2-0.
Experienced Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran quickly turned from assist hero to villain, though, after conceding a penalty, and could only shake his head as Agim Ibraimi coolly sent captain Iker Casillas the wrong way.
Macedonia only enjoyed a brief respite, though, as Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets gave Spain breathing space once more. His shot took a deflection to beat Pacovski, with his first ever international goal increasing the deficit just before the break.
Silva followed suit and finally reaped the rewards from his hard work, compounding Macedonia’s misery and making it 4-1 in the 50th minute, after a neat exchange with Jordi Alba. Orchestrating his own goal, the Manchester City schemer made himself available for a return pass and pinged a low shot into the right hand corner.
Pedro capped off a fine evening for the Iberian outfit, and a disappointing result for the crushed Macedonians, by running on to a delicious pass from Silva, chipping a beleaguered Pacovski and providing holders Spain with a shot in the arm.
Austria 1-1 Sweden
Penalties again played a role in this round of qualifiers, as Austria took an early lead against Sweden in the seventh minute. A confident David Alaba converted the spot kick after his cross hit Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson on the arm, heralding an exciting opening exchange.
The home side’s lead lasted a mere five minutes, before Erkan Zengin netted a memorable first international goal, chesting down and striking home a venomous equaliser.
Sweden’s star man and skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic had provided the assist, but the PSG talisman was unable to find the back of the net himself on his 100th international appearance. The mercurial striker was still the centre of attention, and was lucky to avoid a booking for an elbow on Alaba, as the Scandinavian side settled for a hard earned draw.
Zengin did come close again, rattling the crossbar, but it was Austria who had the lion’s share of possession, requiring Sweden stopper Andreas Isaksson to be on top form to palm away efforts from Martin Harnic and Julien Baumgartlinger.
After taking a share of the spoils, Ibrahimovic’s team will now face off with Russia in a crucial clash, whilst Austria encounter Moldova.