Italy kept pace with Spain in European World Cup qualifying as goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon played his 1,000th professional match in a 2-0 victory over Albania on Friday.
A first-half Daniele De Rossi penalty and late second from Ciro Immobile was enough to earn the Azzurri three points but they remain behind Spain on goal difference at the top of Group G after La Rioja downed Israel 4-1.
Manchester City forward David Silva and Chelsea’s Diego Costa were on the scoresheet alongside Vitolo and Isco, while Lior Refaelov netted Israel’s consolation.
In Palermo it was a day for Buffon to savour as he won a European record 168th cap and helped Italy extend their unbeaten run in qualifiers to 55 matches (41 wins, 14 draws).
De Rossi converted the spot-kick on 12 minutes after Migjen Basha, one of six Albanians plying his club trade in Italy, brought down Andrea Belotti.
Albanian fans threw flares onto the pitch in disgust and when they did so again just before the hour mark, the game was suspended for five minutes.
Immobile made the game safe 10 minutes from time by heading home a Davide Zappacosta cross.
“At the start, there was too much tension, we tried to do too much and missed some fluidity,” said Italy coach Giampiero Ventura. “But we were never in danger.”
Spain had their game wrapped up by half-time in Gijon as Silva drove home a pass from Jordi Alba before Vitolo’s shot in first half injury time squirmed under Israel goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.
Diego Costa headed home a Thiago Alcantara corner on 51 minutes.
Refaelov gave the visitors something to cheer with a left-foot effort on 76 minutes, just moments after Rami Gershon had struck the post with a header.
But Iago Aspas teed up Isco to put the gloss on a comfortable win two minutes from time.
Defeat saw Israel slip four points behind the two Group G heavyweights with five games left to play and only the pool winners guaranteed a place at Russia 2018.
“I am very happy with my goal, but the victory is the most important thing,” said Silva. “We needed to win to stay ahead of the rest.”
Coleman sustains broken leg in Wales draw
Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman suffered a broken leg in his side’s 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw with Wales on Friday, manager Martin O’Neill confirmed.
Everton right-back Coleman, 28, was given oxygen and stretchered off after his right leg was left horribly bent by a foul from Neil Taylor, who was sent off, in the 69th minute.
“Seamus has gone to hospital,” O’Neill told reporters at the Aviva Stadium. “It’s been confirmed by our doctor that he’s broken his leg. It’s a big, big loss to Everton and to us. But he’ll fight back, I hope.”
Wales forward Gareth Bale said: “We never wish an injury on anyone. I don’t know how bad it is, but we all wish him a speedy recovery.”
USA thrash Honduras
Clint Dempsey made a fairytale return to international duty with a hat-trick as the United States reignited their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras on Friday.
Dempsey, playing his first international since recovering from a heart problem that forced a six-month layoff, scored goals in each half as the Americans romped to a crucial victory at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium.