Xavi, Alvaro Negredo edge Spain closer to 2014 FIFA World Cup

Victory means Spain lead France by three points at the top of Group I with the world champions set to face Georgia in Albacete in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

Updated: October 12, 2013 09:19 IST
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Palma: Alvaro NegredoSpain moved to within a point of sealing their place at next year's World Cup with an unconvincing 2-1 win over Belarus in Mallorca on Friday.

Second-half goals from Xavi and Alvaro Negredo put Vicente del Bosque's men in charge.

However they were far from their free-flowing best and Belarus made it an uncomfortable finish for the hosts when Sergei Kornilenko swept home Sergei Krivets pass a minute from time.

Victory means Spain lead France by three points at the top of Group I with the world champions set to face Georgia in Albacete in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

"We weren't precise in the final pass, but at the end of the day it is a good victory and an important step towards the World Cup," Xavi told Spanish TV station Telecinco.

"We had chances but they didn't go in and it wasn't until Alvaro's goal went in we could relax.

"It is difficult to play against 10 men behind the ball. We need to move the ball more quickly and have more fluidity in our play, but it is difficult."

Del Bosque had sprung a surprise with his team selection as Michu was handed his international debut up front, whilst Victor Valdes was selected in goal ahead of Iker Casillas.

However, the Swansea City man failed to make the most of his opportunity as he provided little to a largely ineffective first-half display by the home side.

It took the hosts 37 minutes to even register their first shot on target and Aleksandr Gutor comfortably parried David Silva's effort to safety.

And it was Belarus who felt hard done by a minute before the break when Stanislav Dragun's cross struck Gerard Pique on the arm inside the area, but referee Ivan Bebek was unmoved.

Del Bosque acted at half-time by bringing on Andres Iniesta for Monreal and Negredo was also introduced at the expense of Michu 10 minutes later.

The opener did finally arrive on the hour mark as Xavi pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the area to volley home his 12th international goal.

Spain continued to control the game, but didn't have another effort on goal until they sealed the game with their best move of the match 12 minutes from time.

Pedro Rodriguez's clever flick freed Sergio Ramos down the right and his pinpoint cross was headed home by Negredo from close range for his third goal in his last four internationals.

The Manchester City man marked the goal by pointing to the sky and admitted that he had done so as a tribute to the former Formula One driver Maria de Villota, who died suddenly of natural causes in Seville on Friday.

"It is a sad day, I celebrated my goal like that for her and her family," he said.

Negredo had been surprisingly overlooked in the starting line-up given that Michu had only been called into the squad as a late replacement from David Villa, but he insisted he just has to continue making the best of the opportunities he is handed by Del Bosque.

"I try to take advantage of my opportunities and the most important thing is to look for the win.

"We all want to play, it is obvious we all have that desire. Today the manager has gone for Michu and on another day he will go for me. We have to respect his decisions."

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  • Football
  • Sevilla
  • Belarus
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Álvaro Negredo
  • Xavi

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