Spain see off Belarus
Holders Spain moved to the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals when captain Xavi and substitute Alvaro Negredo struck in a laboured 2-1 win at home to Belarus in Group I on Friday.
The victory in Palma de Mallorca puts Spain three points clear of France with one match to play, and a point against lowly Georgia in Albacete on Tuesday will secure the world and European champions a berth at the tournament in Brazil.
Spain dominated possession against an ultra-defensive Belarus, who are bottom of the group, but struggled to create clear chances until Xavi broke the deadlock in the 61st minute with a powerful strike from the edge of the area that left goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor rooted to the spot.
Centre back Sergio Ramos was the unlikely creator of Spain’s second goal 12 minutes from time when he found himself on the right wing and clipped over a perfect cross for Negredo to send a superb diving header low into the corner.
Sergei Kornilenko pulled a goal back for Belarus in the 89th minute from one of their few forays forward but it was nothing more than a consolation for the visitors.