Nations League: Spain snags Portugal finals, Ireland fends off humiliation

Spain secured a place in the Nations League Final Four after Álvaro Morata scored a late goal in a 1-0 win Portugal in Braga to secure first place in their group.

Portugal had dominated the game but Spain remained in contention and in the 88th minute a long ball from Dani Carvajal was headed into the box by Nico Williams to Morata, who whipped it into the net to silence most of the packed stadium bring. Portugal had a late chance to get the point they needed but Cristiano Ronaldo missed from close range to extend his goalless streak with the national side to three games.

Spain had not won in nearly two decades since a friendly in Portugal in 2003 and it was their first competitive away win against their neighbors since a 2-1 World Cup qualifying triumph in 1934. Spain finished top of the table La Liga A Group 2 11 points from six games, a point ahead of second-placed Portugal, who needed just a draw to secure a place in the semis. Spain will face Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands in next year’s finals.

Irish republic avoided relegation to the third tier after a 3-2 win Armenia. John Egan opened the scoring with a header before Michael Obafemi doubled the lead with a shot from low range. Armenia struck twice in three minutes to save the Irish by a goal from humiliation, but Robbie Brady’s injury-time penalty calmed nerves in Dublin. The Armenians had sent off two players from the field because of the late penalty decision.

Robbie Brady summarizes the relief at Dublin's Aviva Stadium after scoring the late penalty to win against Armenia.
Robbie Brady summarizes the relief at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium after scoring the late penalty to win against Armenia. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Northern Ireland collapsed to their third loss in a poor Nations League campaign as they were beaten 3-1 Greece in Athens, and they were only spared a relegation game Kosovo beat up Cyprus 5-1 Shayne Lavery quickly equalized Dimitrios Pelkas’ goal in the 14th minute, but a bumpy, incoherent performance failed to elicit a response after Giorgos Masouras restored the Greek lead early in the second half, with a lovely strike from Petros Mantalos ending 10 minutes equalized before the end.

It was hardly a fitting night for Jonny Evans’ 100th cap as the joy of Saturday’s late win over Kosovo at Windsor Park evaporated at Georgios Kamaras Stadium as the 976 fans gathered behind Ian Baraclough’s dugout , expressed their feelings, with some coaches booing at the final whistle. Northern Ireland have avoided relegation but third place in Group 2 of League C means they face the prospect of a difficult Euro 2024 qualifying draw for the season starting in March.

A stunning first-half volley from Benjamin Sesko helped Slovenia secure a 1-1 draw Sweden in Group 4 of League B, a result that saw the hosts relegated after a dismal season of four defeats in six games. Sesko put the visitors ahead in the 28th minute with a thunderous left-footed volley, but the Swedes hit back and Emil Forsberg equalized with a superb solo goal three minutes before the break. Knowing they needed a win to keep going, the Swedes threw caution to the wind, but not for the first time in the competition their attack fell far short of the target as the game ended in a draw.

Spiš mirno, Marco van Basten?! ??? #Srcebije ??

— Sport Club Slovenia (@Sport_Klub_Slo) September 27, 2022

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Aleksandar Mitrovic scored his 50th international goal as top scorer Serbia surpassed Norway with a 2-0 victory over League B Group 4 leaders and promotion to League A. Erling Haaland almost gave the home sides a perfect start, but his first shot after 20 seconds was brilliantly parried by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Dusan Vlahovic put the visitors ahead in the 42nd minute and Mitrovic, already Serbia’s all-time leading goalscorer, doubled his side’s advantage nine minutes into the second half with a typically accurate finish from Ivan Ilic’s pass.

Two goals in a minute by Remo Freuler and Breel Embolo steered Switzerland to a 2-1 win over Unlucky Czech Republic in Kybunpark, a result with which the Czechs are relegated from Nations League A. Freuler headed in a Xherdan Shaqiri cross in the 29th minute, Embolo collected a loose pass right after the kick-off, ran to the edge of the box and fired a low shot into the bottom corner. The visitors reduced the deficit before half-time when Patrik Schick struck from a left foot from a low cross from David Zima, while Tomas Soucek later saved his penalty from Yann Sommer in a tough night for the visitors, who also found the frame of the goal at two occasions.

#Nations #League #Spain #snags #Portugal #finals #Ireland #fends #humiliation

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