Spain consign Ukraine to lottery of play-offs

Reigning European champions Spain claimed a 1-0 win in Kiev to consign Ukraine to a place in the Euro 2016 play-offs.

Spain won an eighth successive match in advancing top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group C as Mario Gaspar’s debut goal proved decisive.

Their only defeat came in their second game to Slovakia, who finished runners-up, with Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine third.

Ukraine began the match level on points with Slovakia, but an inferior head to head record meant they needed a better outcome than their rivals, who were playing in Luxembourg.

Ultimately even a Ukraine win wouldn’t have been sufficient as Slovakia booked their ticket for France with a 4-2 victory.

Jan Kozak’s side, who had not found the net since their 2-1 win against Macedonia four months ago, clinched automatic qualification thanks to Marek Hamsik’s brace and further goals from Adam Nemec and Robert Mak.

It was not all plain sailing for the visitors however, with Luxembourg scoring twice in four second-half minutes to give their opponents a scare.

Belarus and Macedonia concluded their Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns with a goalless draw which left the former Yugoslav nation bottom of Group C.

Sweden upheld their part of the bargain by beating Moldova 2-0 at Friends Arena but they will go into Sunday’s play-off following Russia’s victory over Montenegro.

Erik Hamren’s men went into the final round of Group G fixtures two points behind Russia and relying on a favour from Montenegro, who could not deliver as they fell to a 2-0 defeat in Moscow.

Sweden, who have ultimately paid the price for defeats to Russia and Austria last month, will at least prepare for next month’s play-offs on the back of a second straight victory which came courtesy of goals in either half from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his 59th in international football, and Erkan Zengin.

First-half goals from Oleg Kuzmin and Aleksandr Kokorin booked Russia’s place at the finals.

Unbeaten Austria completed their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory over Liechtenstein, their ninth win from 10 Group G matches.

Marc Janko scored two goals within four second-half minutes after Marko Arnautovic had given the hosts an early lead at Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.

Slovenia eventually claimed a 2-0 win over San Marino to book a play-off spot after finishing third in Group E.

San Marino, who had claimed just one point from their previous nine matches, went close to adding to their solitary goal of the campaign early on.

Alex Gasperoni hit a shot high and wide before Andy Selva and Adolfo Hirsch were also wasteful in the opening half hour, before Bostjan Cesar opened the scoring for the visitors with a free header in the 55th minute.

Nejc Pecnik doubled the lead with another headed goal 20 minutes later as Slovenia secured a play-off place.

Estonia saw their qualifying hopes end as they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland at A. Le Coq Arena.

Magnus Pehrsson’s hosts held out slim chances of making the play-offs, needing to defeat the Group E runners-up and for San Marino to see off Slovenia, but both results went against them as a late own goal from Ragnar Klavan ended all hope in Tallinn.


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