Diego Costa Leads Spain to 2018 World Cup Qualifying Win vs. Macedonia

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2017

Spain's David Silva celebrates after scoring against Macedonia, during their World Cup Group G qualifying soccer match at the Philip II National Stadium in Skopje, Macedonia, on Sunday, June 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Boris Grdanoski/Associated Press

David Silva and Diego Costa scored as Spain beat Macedonia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier at the Philip II Arena in Skopje on Sunday.

Stefan Ristovski got one back for Macedonia in the second half, but Spain held on to stay top of Group G on goal difference ahead of Italy, with both teams level on 16 points.

Silva put Spain in front on 15 minutes by finishing smartly after a deft turn in the box. The Manchester City playmaker's well-placed low shot wrong-footed Macedonia goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

The goal meant Silva maintained a rare prolific scoring run during his international career, per OptaJose:

Silva had been played in by left-back Jordi Alba, whose overlapping run was found brilliantly thanks to a classy scooped pass from Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta.

The crisp move was symptomatic of the way Spain played during the opening 45 minutes. Silva, Iniesta and Co. fluidly rotated positions and routinely threaded astute passes between the lines.

More quality passing led to a second goal for the visitors after 27 minutes. This time it was Real Madrid schemer Isco who was played in behind. His low cross picked out Chelsea striker Costa for a tap-in.

Isco's contribution marked a first for him at this level:

The two-goal lead was the least Spain deserved for the expansive brand of attacking football they produced. In fact, they might have been further in front had Isco not squandered a pair of good chances.

Cost was left with the easiest of finishes after another slick series of passes from Spain.
Cost was left with the easiest of finishes after another slick series of passes from Spain.Boris Grdanoski/Associated Press

Meanwhile, Macedonia's modest threat came from veteran striker Goran Pandev. The 33-year-old Genoa attacker went close three minutes after the break but saw his shot sail past the far post.

Even so, skipper Pandev continually stayed on the last shoulder of his markers and waited for his chance to stretch the Spain back four with his pace.

Struggling to get in behind, the former Inter Milan man turned provider to play in Ristovski. The midfielder broke clear after Pandev's classy flick and hammered a shot into the top corner out of the reach of David De Gea.

Pandev carried a threat for Macedonia.
Pandev carried a threat for Macedonia.ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/Getty Images

Gerard Pique sent a header wide late on as Spain sought to make sure of the points. Soon after, Costa missed an even better chance when one-on-one with Dimitrievski.

However, Spain ultimately didn't need a third goal and held on to secure a hard-fought but vital win. The 2010 World Cup winners are still in command in Group G ahead of the rematch with Italy on September 2.