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Spain make light work of Kosovo despite goalkeeping gaffe

FOOTBALL By Reuters | April 1st 2021
From left to right, Kosovo and Spain national team players listen to national anthems prior to their World Cup 2022 Group B qualifying round soccer match at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. [AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti]

Spain pulled off a convincing 3-1 win at home to Kosovo in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday although goalkeeper Unai Simon had a night to forget, committing a tremendous blunder far from his area to cost his side a goal.

Dani Olmo gave Spain a deserved lead in the 34th minute with a delicate chip to add to his stoppage-time winner against Georgia in their previous outing, while Ferran Torres fired in the second goal two minutes later.

Spain looked in total control as they dominated possession and played with purpose but they allowed Kosovo back into the game in the 70th minute when Simon lost the ball after rushing out of his box and Besar Halimi ruthlessly pounced and scored from a distance.

The home side promptly restored their two-goal cushion five minutes later though thanks to a header from Gerard Moreno and saw out the win to move top of Group B with seven points after three games.

Spain had faced plenty of criticism for their sluggish start to qualifying after a 1-1 draw at home to Greece and a scrappy 2-1 victory in Georgia, after which Luis Enrique said he was 'very worried' about his side's struggles to break down tight teams intent on defending.

Practically everything clicked into place on Wednesday though, as 18-year-old Pedri pulled the strings in midfield while Ferran and Olmo used their pace to help prise open Kosovo.

After Olmo's sumptuous chip had broken the deadlock, Pedri laid on the pass for Ferran to double Spain's lead with a darting run inside from the right before firing into the opposite corner of the net.

Playing with flair and confidence that recalled a young Andres Iniesta, Pedri carved open the visitors again in the second half and would have added another assist had Moreno not wasted a clear opportunity by shooting straight at Kosovo keeper Samir Ujkani.

The only sour note for Spain concerned Simon, whose error will start another debate over who should be their number one keeper in the European Championships in June.

Results from other matches on Wednesday night. [Photo: Courtesy]
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