Spain cruised to an 8-0 win over last-place Liechtenstein to stay in control of Group G in European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday.
Alvaro Morata and Iago Aspas each scored two goals as Spain maintained its three-point advantage over second-place Italy with two matches remaining.
Spain also scored through Sergio Ramos, Francisco "Isco" Alarcon, David Silva and an own goal by Max Goeppel as it repeated its 8-0 victory over Liechtenstein last year, securing at least second place in the group for the 2010 world champions.
Spain has a far better goal difference than Italy, which it beat 3-0 on Saturday, so it can virtually secure first place — and a spot for next year’s tournament in Russia — with a home win against Albania in Alicante on Oct. 6.
Spain’s last loss in World Cup qualifying was in November 1993.
Elsewhere in the group, Italy edged Israel 1-0 and Albania drew 1-1 with Macedonia.
Italy all but secured a playoff place after labouring to a victory over Israel but it was an abject performance from the Azzurri, who were jeered off the pitch at halftime.
Ciro Immobile’s second-half goal means Italy needs just one point from its final two qualifying matches to secure second spot and a playoff berth. It next plays Macedonia in Turin on Oct. 6, three days before it visits Albania.
Israel now has no chance of qualifying.
The jeers in Italy began after about 15 minutes as the Azzurri struggled to find a rhythm. Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was clearly as frustrated as the fans and could be seen banging his head on the roof covering the substitutes’ bench.
Italy improved in the second half and Daniele de Rossi and Immobile both had chances before the deadlock was broken eight minutes after the restart when Antonio Candreva floated in a pinpoint cross from the right flank for Immobile to head in at the far post.
It was Immobile’s sixth goal in eight qualifying matches for Italy.
HERO TO VILLAIN
Albania’s hopes of reaching the playoffs are almost certainly over after it was held to a draw in Macedonia.
Odise Roshi headed Armando Sadiku’s cross in off the far post to give Albania the lead in the 53rd minute.
However, Roshi went from hero to villain in the 77th minute, when he conceded a penalty that Aleksandar Trajkovski converted on his 25th birthday.
Albania slipped six points below Italy.