- Group I clash between Iceland and Croatia sees the home side produce a 90th-minute winner
- Italy and Spain each secured their fifth victory of the campaign in Group G
- All three matches in Group D ended in draws
THE DAY REPLAYED – Sunday’s European qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ saw Spain and Italy, who will face each other in a much-anticipated Group G duel in September, do exactly what was expected of them against FYR Macedonia and Liechtenstein, respectively.
In Group D, the day's three encounters resulted in stalemates, while in Group I, Iceland got the better of Croatia to give themselves a fighting chance of automatic qualification.
FIFA.com runs the rule over all of the day’s qualifiers.
Group D: Moldova 2-2 Georgia, Ireland 1-1 Austria, Serbia 1-1 Wales
Group G: Macedonia 1-2 Spain, Israel 0-3 Albania, Italy 5-0 Liechtenstein
Group I: Finland 1-2 Ukraine, Kosovo 1-4 Turkey, Iceland 1-0 Croatia
Match of the day
*Iceland - Croatia
Group I leaders Croatia travelled to Reykjavik to take on Iceland, seven months after defeating the high-profile underdogs 2-0 in Zagreb. Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men were ready for the challenge, gaining revenge in dramatic fashion at the culmination of a vigorous match. Hordur Magnusson scored what could prove to be a crucial 90th-minute winner in unorthodox fashion, bundling the ball into the Croatian net with his shoulder, following a corner from the left.
In a pool where no team could produce a victory, Moldova may be harbouring the greatest feelings of regret on Sunday, having led 2-0 at half-time. Georgia coach Vladimir Weiss clearly did not believe all was lost, however, throwing on two attack-minded substitutes, who both found the net in the second period.
Unbeaten in Dublin in competitive matches since 1993, Republic of Ireland looked as if they were going to allow that record to slip away when Austria opened the scoring in the 31st minute, a lead they held until five minutes from time. Martin O’Neill’s charges salvaged a point through Jonathan Walters, who lashed home a right-footed half-volley from just inside the Austrian box.
Wales, meanwhile, also went ahead away from home after Aaron Ramsey’s Panenka-style penalty putting the visitors 1-0 up against Serbia. But the Beli Orlovi did not allow their heads to go down, as Aleksandar Mitrovic stroked in an equaliser in the 73rd minute.
Spain and Italy warmed up for their big head-to-head meeting in September by both picking up three points and remaining joint leaders of Group G. While La Roja, who went ahead via goals by David Silva and Diego Costa and then allowed their resilient opponents back into the match, found the going a little tough at times, it was plain sailing for the Azzurri*, *who comfortably saw off Liechtenstein 5-0 in Udine.
Further down the table, Albania moved into third position after a convincing win in Israel. An Armando Sadiku brace did the majority of the damage for the away side.
Four teams are now separated by just two points at the top of this section. Iceland share the lead with Croatia following their victory in Reykjavik. Turkey, who performed impressively in Kosovo (4-1) are third, level on goal difference with fourth-placed Ukraine, who dug deep to win 2-1 in Finland.
Unfortunately, as of this round of games, winless Kosovo and Finland are now mathematically eliminated from the race for Russia 2018.
Player of the day
Spain extended their remarkable unbeaten record in World Cup qualifying matches to 59 (Denmark were the last team to defeat them on 31 March 1993), and they did so with the help of David Silva, who scored an eye-catching opener in Skopje. The on-song Manchester City playmaker has now found the net in his country’s last four matches.
* What they said *
(Rafael Nadal’s tenth French Open title was more than enough motivation for us tonight. There aren’t any words to describe it; what a master!)