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World Cup Qualifier: Costa, Nolito help Spain overcome Albania

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Spain overcame Albania 2-0 in an away qualifier in Shkoder to keep their campaign on track to qualify for the 2018 World Cup football tournament in Russia.

The victory in the Loro Borici Stadium on Sunday evening came thanks to second half goals from Diego Costa and Nolitio, putting Spain in a strong position within the group as they also tied Italy in the an earlier away qualifier.

Just as pleasing as the result for new Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, will be the convincing performance in just his third game in charge.

Lopetegui drafted Nacho Montreal straight into his side after the Arsenal defender replaced Jordi Alba on Friday and he took his place in a three-man defense alongside Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos as Spain looked to pack the midfield.

Although Diego Costa was the only specialist striker on the pitch, Koke, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Vitolo all had a free reign to attack with the result that the Spanish penned Albania back in their penalty area.

Koke saw an early shot saved by Albania keeper Ertit Berisha, who then pulled off a flying save to deny Vitolo's curling effort, which had looked destined for the corner of the goal.

Spain were controlling around 70 percent of possession, but failed to turn that into shots on target with Costa's missed header from a Ramos cross their best chance before halftime.

Costa made amends when he broke the deadlock with a right foot shot after being set up by the constantly creative 10 minutes after halftime.

Eight minutes later Nolito sealed the win with a curling shot just moments after replacing Vitolo. The Manchester City forward received the ball from Montreal and bent it into the far corner of the Albania net.

The only bad news for Spain was the knee injury suffered by Ramos, who landed badly after jumping for a header 10 minutes from time.