WC Qualifier round-up: Sweden bounce back in style to surprise Spain in Stockholm

Italy equal unbeaten record but frustrated by Bulgaria; winning start for Flick's Germany

Sweden’s Viktor Claesson (No 7)celebrates scoring his side’s second goal  with team-mates  during the  World Cup quaifier against Spain at the Friends Arena in Solna. Photograph:  Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden’s Viktor Claesson (No 7)celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with team-mates during the World Cup quaifier against Spain at the Friends Arena in Solna. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

 

Sweden 2 Spain 1

Sweden bounced back from conceding an early goal to surprise Spain and emerge with a 2-1 victory in their World Cup qualifier on Thursday to take control of Group B.

The game was barely five minutes old when Spain debutant Carlos Soler put the visitors ahead with a smart half-volley from Jordi Alba’s cross.

The lead did not last long as a minute later Alexander Isak, who plays in Spain for Real Sociedad, capitalised on Sergio Busquets’s error on the edge of the box to equalise.

Both sides had chances before Viktor Claesson latched onto Dejan Kulusevski’s centre to fire the winner after 57 minutes.

Group leaders Sweden move on to nine points with three wins from three games, while Euro 2020 semi-finalists Spain drop to second with seven points having played a game more.

Italy 1 Bulgaria 1

European champions Italy made it 35 games unbeaten to equal the European record run set by Spain but were ultimately disappointed as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in Florence.

In their first match since winning the European Championship in July, Federico Chiesa wasted no time in putting Italy ahead, arrowing home a fine finish with 16 minutes on the clock.

However, Atanas Iliev struck an equaliser against the run of play five minutes before the break, the first goal Italy have conceded in their World Cup qualifying campaign to date.

It was one-way traffic in the second half as the home side went in search of a winner but, apart from Ciro Immobile’s effort from a tight angle that was cleared off the line, Roberto Mancini’s side did not look like scoring again.

Despite the draw, Italy remain in a strong position to reach next year’s World Cup in Qatar, sitting top of the group on 10 points from four matches, four points clear of Switzerland in second albeit having played two games more.

Liechtenstein 0 Germany 2

New Germany coach Hansi Flick got his reign off to a winning start as Timo Werner and Leroy Sane scored in a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein in their Group J qualifier on Thursday, but once again the Germans struggled in front of goal in a game played in St Gallen, Switzerland.

It took 41 minutes of complete dominance before Werner finally got the first goal of the Flick era, latching on to a superb pass from Jamal Musiala before slotting the ball home with his right foot.

Liechtenstein continued to frustrate the Germans until the 77th minute when Sane was finally rewarded for his industry, dancing to his left in the box before rattling a low shot in at the far post to make, but the Germans will be deeply unhappy that their dominance did not lead to more goals.

Having suffered a shock loss to North Macedonia in March, the Germans are second in the group on nine points after four games, one behind leaders Armenia. Liechtenstein are bottom with no points and one goal scored with 12 against.

Estonia 2 Belgium 5

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium overcame an early scare to crush Estonia 5-2 in Tallinn and solidify their position at the top of Group E.

Lukaku’s extended his scoring record to 66 goals in his 99th appearance for his country after Belgium were shocked when Estonia captain Matthias Kait stole away the ball in midfield and thundered home a powerful shot to put the home side ahead in the second minute.

But Fifa’s top-ranked team fought back to move to 10 points from four group matches while Estonia are bottom after losing their opening three games.

Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel and substitute Thomas Foket also scored for Belgium while Erik Sorga grabbed a consolation for the hosts.

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