A first half firecracker from Pablo Fornals and a late strike from Ferran Torres fired Spain to a 2-0 win at Kosovo in Group B of World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 on Wednesday night at the Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina.
The Spain victory, along with Sweden’s loss at Greece, now gives La Roja a four-point lead in the group, although with two matches in hand for the Swedes. Nevertheless, Spain now control their destiny as they could finish ahead of Sweden with a home win over the Scandinavians on the final matchday in November.
Coach Luis Enrique made a slew of changes from the starting XI that blew past Georgia on Sunday. Marcos Llorente got the nod again, but this at right-back, while Inigo Martinez and Sergio Reguilon were new inclusions in the back four. Sergio Busquets and Koke earned returns to the starting line-up in midfield, as did Fornals and Alvaro Morata up top.
It was Kosovo who had the brighter start of the two and a lashing shot from outside the area from Elba Rashini served notice to the Spanish defence that it was going to be a much busier night than the one against Georgia.
Spain were having difficulty penetrating the Kosovo area, but that all changed after the half-hour mark when Carlos Soler played a touch pass to Morata, who then fed Fornals and after turning the Kosovo defender, the former Villarreal man unleashed a left-footed rocket that beat Kosovo goalkeeper Muric to hand Spain a 1-0 lead.
Both Soler and Morata had chances to add a second shortly before the break, with the former striking a free-kick that forced a parry from Muric, followed by Morata heading wide on the subsequent corner kick.
Kosovo were hanging tough and should have equalised shortly after the break on a mistake from Inigo Martinez, but Muriqi fired wide of the net to spare the visitors.
The first two changes for Spain came shortly before the hour mark with Soler and Fornals making way for Cesar Azpilicueta and Adama Traore, followed later by Pablo Sarabia for Morata.
Spain were keen to add an insurance goal to avoid a nervy final few minutes and had good looks through headers from Busquets and Ferran Torres, only to see each effort land off-target.
Unai Simon was still keeping busy at the other end and had to get down low quickly to paw away a potential equaliser from Zymer Bytyqi.
The final changes from Luis Enrique were Mikel Merino and Raul Albiol for Llorente and Koke, respectively, but it was Ferran Torres who would polish things off with a late strike that was confirmed by VAR for a 2-0 win.