World Cup round-up: Soldado goal saves Spain as champions get off mark
Roberto Soldado snatched a late winner as Spain began the defence of their world title with a 1-0 victory away to an ultra-defensive Georgia in a Group I qualifier.
Handed a rare start ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa, Soldado fluffed one chance in the first half in Tbilisi but made no mistake from close range when set up by substitute Cesc Fabregas in the 86th minute. It was cruel on the home side, who had held out stubbornly against their illustrious visitors despite losing goalkeeper Giorgi Loria to injury with around 20 minutes left.
Alexander Kerzhakov scored twice as Russia cruised to victory over Israel in World Cup qualifying Group F. The match was all but over as a contest inside 20 minutes as Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Kokorin put the visitors 2-0 up in Ramat Gan. Kerzhakov made it 3-0 in the 64th minute and Viktor Faitzulin added a fourth as Fabio Capello’s side made it two wins from two qualifiers.
The opening goal came from a free-kick in the sixth minute. Having been fouled by Tal Ben Haim, Kerzhakov stepped up to fire the ball into the top-left corner from around 25 yards.
Russia doubled their advantage in the 18th minute when Kokorin beat Mallorca goalkeeper Dudu Aouate from 12 yards.
Maharan Radi wasted a good chance to pull a goal back when his close-range volley also went over the bar.
But Russia put the game to bed when Faitzulin crossed from the left and Kerzhakov slotted home from six yards. Faitzulin grabbed a goal of his own in the 77th minute, converting Samedov’s low cross at the near post.
John Arne Riise scored an injury-time penalty to give Norway a 2-1 win over Slovenia. Marko Suler gave Slovenia the lead in the 16th minute after Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein failed to hold a free kick, but Norway equalised ten minutes later when Tarik Elyounussi’s shot hit the crossbar and Markus Henriksen headed in the rebound.
The match appeared headed for a draw when substitute Alexander Soederlund was fouled in the box in injury time and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Norway lost their opening qualifier at Iceland 2-0, while Slovenia lost at home to Switzerland with the same result.
Stanislav Manolev scored his second goal in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign as Bulgaria laboured to a 1-0 win over Armenia in a Group B match which featured three red cards.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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