ALBANIA SOCCER FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 QUALIFICATION.jpg
Albania's Andi Lila (L) in action against Spain's Andres Iniesta (R) during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying group G soccer match between Albania and Spain in Shkoder, Albania, 09 October 2016.
Photograph: EPA/ARMANDO BABANI

Spain cruised to the top of World Cup qualifying Group G on Sunday with an authoritative 2-0 win in Albania on second-half goals from Diego Costa and Nolito.

"This was not an easy match for us at all," Nolito said.

"They defended with a lot of men and closed down the spaces very efficiently. But we stuck to our task...This is a very important win for us."

Defender Gerard Pique said: "We knew this was not going to be a comfortable games for us, what with the weather and the pitch.

"This is a valuable win, it is the reward for our patience and persistence, I think."

The 2010 champions are top with seven points from three games, the same total as Italy - who scored a late 3-2 win in Macedonia - but above the Italians on goal difference.

Albania and Israel are joint third with six points apiece.

Spain dominated from start to finish on a terrible pitch in the northern port of Shkoder, but failed to break down a resolute Albanian defence for 55 minutes.

Winger Vitolo - who has proved to be an inspired choice by new coach Julen Lopetegui - twice came close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, as the visitors enjoyed 74 per cent possession.

Persistent Spain finally went ahead 10 minutes into the second half by taking full advantage of a poor clearance from local keeper Etrit Berisha. A slick move led to David Silva setting up Diego Costa to make it 1-0.

Eight minutes later, in pouring rain, supersub Nolito made it 2-0 with a clever low left-foot drive from the right, after taking a short pass from Nacho Monreal.

The only setback for La Roja was a possible left knee injury for captain Sergio Ramos, who will undergo medical tests on Monday.

Spain's next game will be at home to Macedonia on November 12.

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