Soccer - Spain ease to 4-1 victory over Israel to stay top of group

By Richard Martin
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Football Soccer - Spain v Israel - 2018 World Cup Qualifying European Zone

Football Soccer - Spain v Israel - 2018 World Cup Qualifying European Zone - Group G - El Molinon Stadium, Gijon, Spain, 24/3/17 Spain's Vitolo (C) celebrates with team mates after scoring second goal. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso

By Richard Martin

(Reuters) - Diego Costa was among the scorers as Spain strolled to a 4-1 win at home to Israel in a World Cup qualifier on Friday to stay top of Group G.

Manchester City playmaker David Silva put Spain ahead in the 15th minute with a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Ofir Marciano while Vitolo doubled their lead on the stroke of halftime just after Israel had squandered a chance to level.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa scored a fourth international goal in four games to put Spain 3-0 up early in the second half with a header from a corner although Israel striker Lior Refaelov made amends for an earlier miss by pulling one back in the 76th minute.

Isco then restored Spain's three-goal advantage in the 88th minute, rolling the ball into the near corner to complete a sweeping counter started by a burst forward from Costa from the halfway line.

Spain top Group G with 13 points from five points, ahead of Italy on goal difference. Israel are third on nine points and Albania are fourth on six.

"Every game is like a World Cup for us, everything is at stake in every game and we know that every time three points are up for grabs they could be decisive," Spain coach Julen Lopetegui told reporters.

"I'm delighted with the mentality of the team and how we wanted to play as a team. We created a lot of chances and kept attacking and trying to stay intense. I'm happy with our collective spirit and this is the path we need to stay on."

Thiago Alcantara dictated the play for Spain in midfield and created their first effort with a snapshot from outside the area which Marciano tipped onto the bar.

Israel forced an opening when a lapse in concentration from Gerard Pique allowed Eran Zahavi to race towards goal but the striker lost his composure as he entered the area.

Spain's patient build-up play paid off when Jordi Alba slid the ball through a defender's legs to Silva on the left side of the area, allowing the City midfielder to fire through Marciano's legs.

Israel defender Eitan Tibi was carried off on a stretcher shortly after the first goal following a challenge from Pique. The visitors had had little possession but carved out an excellent move just before the break, Lior Refaelov's header forcing David de Gea into a brilliant low save.

Spain were quickly knocked into shape and got their second with the next move, Thiago laying on a pass which looked destined for Silva although the midfielder, who was offside, waited for Vitolo to send the ball trickling over the line.

Costa further stretched Spain's lead after the break with a simple header but Refaelov smashed the ball into the roof of the net after Rami Gershon had headed against De Gea's near post before Isco struck late on.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Brian Homewood)