Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Spain back on track, England win again

Published:Monday | October 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Spain's Diego Da Silva Costa (left) breaks away from Luxembourg's Maxime Chanot (right) during the Euro 2016 qualifying match in Group C between Luxembourg and Spain at the Josy Barthel stadium in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, yesterday. AP Photos
England's Wayne Rooney kicks the ball as he is challenged by Estonia's Artur Pikk during their Euro 2016 qualifying football match in Tallinn, Estonia, yesterday.
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Diego Costa finally transferred his prolific club form to international level to help Spain get back on track in European Championship qualifying, while Wayne Rooney edged England to another win on the road to France.

Playing his seventh game for Spain, Costa ended his international drought with the third goal in a 4-0 win over Luxembourg in Group C that ensured the European champions rebounded from their first qualifying loss in eight years, against Slovakia last Thursday.

It was much less routine for England in Estonia, with Rooney coming to the rescue with a 73rd-minute free kick in a 1-0 victory in Tallinn. England top Group E with a maximum nine points from three games.

Also yesterday, Austria are the surprise leaders of Group G after a 1-0 win over Montenegro.

Here is a look at Sunday's qualifying action:

GROUP C

Costa is the English Premier League's top scorer with nine goals in his first season at Chelsea and he is now up and running for Spain.

Costa's goal from close range in the 69th minute added to first-half strikes by David Silva and Paco Alcacer - his third in as many appearances for the Spanish - before Juan Bernat completed a routine win from a pass by fellow debutant Rodrigo Moreno.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque dropped goalkeeper Iker Casillas to the bench and started David de Gea, who was rarely forced into action.

The win wasn't enough to lift Spain to the top of the group, with Slovakia maintaining their strong start to qualifying by beating Belarus 3-1 mainly thanks to Marek Hamsik's brace.

Slovakia are on nine points, Spain are level on six with Ukraine after their 1-0 win over Macedonia 1-0. Luxembourg and Macedonia have one point.

GROUP E

With three wins from three games and no goals conceded, England are making light work of an easy-looking group that is offering Rooney a great chance to surpass Bobby Charlton as the country's all-time top scorer.

The Manchester United striker moved to within six goals of Charlton's haul of 49 with a free kick from 25 yards that curled over the wall and inside the near post, with goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko parrying the ball against the upright, but unable to keep it out.

Until then, Estonia had frustrated England despite playing with 10 men from the 48th minute after captain Ragnar Klavan's sending off for two yellow cards.

Rooney endured a frustrating evening, wasting two decent first-half chances and then a one-on-one opportunity in second-half injury time but proved to be England's match winner.

"It was hard work," England manager Roy Hodgson said. "We played well in the first half without taking our chances and that meant that there was an air of frustration setting in. Everyone was aware that when you have played well you have to take at least one chance. Luckily we did that in the second half."

Lithuania were also looking for a third win to open up group play but lost 2-0 to Slovenia, which joined their opponents on six points. Switzerland visit San Marino tomorrow, with both sides without a point after two games.

GROUP G

Russia and Sweden were the favourites for automatic qualification, but are two points behind Austria after three games.

Rubin Okotie, half-Nigerian and born in Pakistan, was the match winner against a flat Montenegro side with a 24th-minute goal, pushing Austria to seven points.

Fabio Capello's Russia were held to a surprising 1-1 draw by Moldova after Alexandru Epureanu cancelled out Artyom Dzyuba's penalty moments earlier for the hosts.

The match at Spartak Moscow's Otkrytie Arena was Russia's first at a completed 2018 World Cup stadium.

Russia are now unbeaten in five games since their 1-0 loss to Belgium in the World Cup group stage in Brazil.

Sweden toiled to a 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein, with Jimmy Durmaz scoring one goal and setting up Erkan Zengin for the other.