Isco dominated the Estadio Bernabeu as his brace put Spain well on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win over Italy in their Group G World Cup qualifier.
Giampiero Ventura opted to go for a very adventurous 4-2-4 formation, with Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile flanked by Lorenzo Insigne and Antonio Candreva.
That risk was quickly taken advantage of by Isco, who bagged his first inside then opening 15 minutes, then got a second just before half-time. Alvaro wrapped up the win, and all three points, five minutes after coming on as a substitute.
La Roja now lead the Azzurri by three points and will surely win the group, thus gaining automatic qualification to Russia 2018. Italy will likely be in the playoffs.
The signs were ominous early on as Sergio Ramos put a freekick just over Gianluigi Buffon’s bar. Then moments later Leonardo Bonucci gave a away a freekick on the edge of the Italy penalty area.
Isco then stepped up and put the ball over the wall and into the back of the net 14 minutes in, though there were question marks over Buffon’s position as he seemed too far left.
ISCO FREE KICK v ITALY ???????? pic.twitter.com/z1zTbED5e2
— Sam ? (@JuanderfuI) September 2, 2017
Italy almost levelled the scoreline immediately as Matteo Darmian swung in an inch perfect cross for Belotti, but the Torino frontman’s header was clawed away by David De Gea.
At the other end, Gerard Pique should have put Spain two goals up after Koke found him unmarked in the six-yard box, but his header went just over the crossbar.
Spain asserted their dominance as the first half wore on, with Dani Carvajal having an effort deflected wide, while Marco Asensio was almost put through on goal, on multiple occasions.
Then, as the opening 45 minutes were coming to an end, Isco gathered the ball on the edge of Italy’s penalty area, moved in from the right and hit the ball back across goal into the bottom corner.
This is Isco???????????? pic.twitter.com/yN4ial9K7O
— Rasul (@spawn969) September 2, 2017
After the break, Italy were in control and looked to hold the ball, before creating a good chance for Insigne, who blasted straight at De Gea, then Candreva’s deflected follow up eventually found its way to the Spain goalkeeper.
The Azzurri weren’t finished there as Belotti had an excellent opportunity to reduce the deficit but could only head over the bar from close range.
Shooting practice then began for Spain. First, Asensio fired wide, then Koke blasted over the bar. Then great skill from Isco allowed the Real Madrid man past Marco Verratti to play an excellent ball to Carvjal, who was denied by Buffon as he bore down on goal.
It was all over thanks to an explosive counter attack. Ramos raced from his own half alongside Morata, with the Chelsea forward playing the Real Madrid captain in on the right, and he cut back for his former teammate who then tapped in at the back post.
2 man counter attack by Ramos (assist) and Morata (scorer) to make it
— N • E • M • O (@TafadzwaMunemo) September 2, 2017
Then Morata thought he had his second of the game, but was flagged offside as he stuck the ball past Buffon.
Italy are next up against Israel in Reggio Emilia on Tuesday.