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WC Qualification Europe
September 7, 2013
• Helsingin olympiastadion, Helsinki (Helsingfors)
Referee: I. Bebek
• Attendance: 37492
Jordi Alba 18'
Spain play Chile in an international friendly on Tuesday night whilst Finland hope to boost their World Cup hopes with a visit to Belarus. Thanks for joining me, Max Bentley, on this Goal.com live commentary. Make sure to check out the match report, player ratings and reaction. Until next time, goodbye.
FT: FINLAND 0-2 SPAIN. Hardly a vintage Spanish performance but Vicente Del Bosque's side go three points clear of France in Group I thanks to goals from Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo. The World and European Champions were dominant throughout but you have to credit Finland's defensive stubborness and they certainly looked dangerous on the break.
90' + 3'
Finland are refusing to give up hope but Schuller's shot from the edge of the box goes high over the crossbar. It seems Casillas will be celebrating his 150th cap with a clean sheet.
90' + 1'
Yellow Card Mario Suárez
Mario Suarez picks up the first yellow gard of the game as he produces a late mistimed tackle on Riski. The Atletico Madrid man has looked impressive on his international debut.
The Finland fans are still in fine voice here as this match draws towards its conclusion. They will be proud of how their side have defended this evening, despite the result. Plenty of positives for Mixu Paatelainen's side.
Negredo goes close to snatching a second goal but he cannot generate enough power on his header from Cazorla's cross and the ball flashes wide of the target.
Assist Jesús Navas González
NEGREDO MAKES IT TWO! The Manchester City stars combine as Iniesta picks out Navas down the right and his low cross into the middle is finished smartly by Negredo from close range. It hasn't been vintage Spain but they have done their job.
Fantastic result for both Spain and Finland as Georgia secure a 0-0 draw with France.
That is the last of the action for Pedro as he is replaced by Arsenal's Santi Cazorla. Mixu Paatelainen also decides to make his third and final change, surprisingly replacing Teemu Pukki with Erfan Zeneli.
GOOD CHANCE FOR SPAIN! Iniesta lays the ball off for his Barcelona teammate, Pedro, on the edge of the box but the winger can only drag his shot wide of the left post.
Injury concern for Finland here as Arkivuo goes down clutching his calf. Mixu Paatelainen will be hoping he can continue.
Iniesta looks to steal the headlines with a shot from 25 yards but watches on disappointingly as it flies high over the bar. He certainly doesn't have his shooting boots on today.
WHAT A CHANCE FOR FINLAND! Pukki has been a constant threat all game and he latches onto Riski's well-disguised reverse pass but can only find the gloves of Casillas with his weak left-footed shot. That was the opportunity he had been waiting for!
PASANEN TO THE RESCUE! This time Xavi does find Negredo through the middle but the Manchester City striker's goalbound effort is blocked by a wonderful last-ditch challenge from Pasanen. The Finnish defence has been fantastic in this game.
Xavi looks to thread an incise pass through the Finland defence for Negredo, but Moisander steps up excellently to make the interception.
Vicente del Bosque throws on another Manchester City recruit in Alvaro Negredo. He will play the lone striker role now as he replaces the false no.9, Cesc Fabregas.
Mixu Paatelainen opts to make an attacking double change with Kasper Hamalainen and Riku Riski replacing Teemu Tainio and Alexander Ring.
It's so crowded around the Finland penalty box and Pedro cannot pick out a fellow teammate with his cutback. This really is superb defending from the hosts. If only they can find an equaliser...
There are only 10 minutes remaining in Tblisi as Georgia continue to hold France to a 0-0 draw. There's encouragement for both Spain and Finland if they ever need it!
BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR FINLAND! The Spanish defence look vulnerable from these long balls over the top and Ring races onto Pasanen's pass but can only fire high over the crossbar, with Albiol in pursuit. The volume rises in anticipation of the equaliser.
FINLAND GO CLOSE! A few of the home fans think that their side have equalised but Tainio's header from Eremenko's corner glances into the side netting. Warning signs for Spain that this game is far from over.
Jordi Alba is looking the most dangerous attacker for Spain and his right-footed shot takes a slight deflection but does not deceive Maenpaa who makes a good stop.
Interesting scoreline coming out of Estonia as they lead the Netherlands 2-1. The Oranje are one of nine unbeaten sides in the European World Cup qualifying section.
You sense that Spain are starting to get a little frustrated here as Mario Suarez fires a shot over from the edge of the box. Finland are defending well in numbers but at some point, they know they are going to have to attack.
It seems Pedro has now switched out to the left side with Navas taking up his familiar role on the right. Perhaps Del Bosque feels an injection of pace is needed to unlock this stubborn Finland defence.
Jesús Navas González
David Villa trudges off the field sulkily as his match comes to an end. Manchester City winger Jesus Navas is on to replace him.
Iniesta is clearly getting fed up of trying to find that killer pass but his shooting does not fare much better as he slices a shot well wide of the goal.
Huge boos ring out the Helsinki National Stadium as the referee refuses to give a penalty when Pukki goes down under a challenge from Albiol. The Celtic man went to ground very easily there.
Teemu Tainio sets his sights on goal but his shot from the edge of the box deflects off of Albiol and into the grateful gloves of Casillas.
Iniesta pokes a brilliant ball into the box for Villa but there is no red shirt to meet his smart cutback. Good start to the second half for Vicente del Bosque's side who look determined to snatch a two-goal cushion and kill off any chance of a Finland fightback.
Spain go close to doubling their tally when Pedro controls Iniesta's pass excellently before firing a right-footed shot high over the crossbar. He perhaps should have hit the target there.
The referee blows his whistle and Spain get the second half underway. It doesn't seem that there have been any substitutions at the break.
HT: FINLAND 0-1 SPAIN. Jordi Alba's neat finish from Cesc Fabregas' glorious pass gives Vicente del Bosque's side a deserved lead at the break. The World Champions have been utterly dominant but Mixu Paatelainen's side deserve credit for their defensive organisation and effective pressing. Can they reproduce their second-half performance from Gijon and snatch an equaliser?
Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. The Finland players continue to chase shadows as Spain tease their opponents on the edge of the box. However, they just cannot find that final ball to penetrate the defence and the move breaks down. Every Spanish player seems reluctant to shoot, they're almost trying to walk it into the net!
David Villa is looking to play a little more centrally now with Fabregas dropping deeper. The Barcelona midfielder looks to chip another perfect pass over the Finland defence for his former-clubmate but Maenpaa rushes off his line to make the save.
Despite being 1-0 behind, the Finland support are in superb voice as they look to inspire their national team back into the game. They have only won one of their five Group I matches, a 1-0 home victory over Belarus.
Koke looks a little vulnerable at right-back for Spain and Moisander stretches his legs down the left before sending a cross into the box, only to see his delivery slightly overhit for Pukki.
Spain are continuing to pass their way around Finland but Moisander produces a crucial interception to prevent Iniesta from converting Pedro's teasing low cross. Can they find a second before the break?
The last time that Finland beat Spain was back in 1969, when they emerged as 2-1 winners. I think Mixu Paatelainen would snap your hand off for a draw tonight though, especially after falling behind.
Andres Iniesta wiggles his way down the left wing but he just cannot get his shot away after gliding past Arkivuo. Finland are looking extremely vulnerable down that flank.
That moment of genius from Fabregas combined with Alba's slick finish is the difference in an opening 30 minutes where Spain have been totally dominant. However, del Bosque will perhaps be concerned with how little his side have tested Maenpaa.
VILLA GOES CLOSE! Spain break from a Finland corner with Iniesta playing a glorious ball over the top for Villa. The Atletico Madrid star produces a lovely piece of skill to deceive Ring before firing a left-footed shot inches past the far post.
Incidentally, it is still 0-0 between France and Georgia.
It's interesting to note that David Villa is out on the left-hand side with Fabregas still deployed as the false no.9. I'm not convinced that is Villa's best position.
Finland's gameplan is obvious as they continue to look for the long ball over the top of Ramos and Albiol for Pukki to chase. To be fair, the Spanish centre-backs do not look all that confident.
Jordi Alba has caused Toivio all sorts of problems down the left and it is no surprise to see the Barcelona man celebrate his second in this qualifying campaign. Finland may have to abandon their deep defensive approach now.
Assist Cesc Fàbregas
Goal Jordi Alba
ALBA OPENS THE SCORING FOR SPAIN! It's a super goal as Fabregas dinks a perfectly-weighed pass over the Finland defence and Alba makes a well-timed run in from the left, cushioning the ball excellently and rolling the ball past Maenpaa with his right foot, 1-0.
FINLAND GO CLOSE! With Spanish shirts committed forward, Tainio breaks up play and lofts a long ball over the head of Ramos for Pukki, who sends a shot just wide of the top right-hand corner. Finland look dangerous on the break.
Fabregas and Iniesta exchange some neat passes on the edge of the Finland box but they just cannot find the space to get the shot on goal. Brilliant defending and pressing from Mixu Paatelainen's side in the opening 15 minutes here.
FINLAND GO CLOSE! Pukki scored a late equaliser last time these two sides met and he nearly gets on the scoresheet again when Ring cuts the ball back for the Celtic man, who watches Ramos make a crucial interception which forces Casillas into a smart reflex save. Ominous warning for the visitors.
Spain continue to probe for the opener with Alba a particular threat down the left. He delivers a teasing cross into the box but Pedro just cannot make contact at the back post.
All eleven Finland shirts are camped deep into their own half at the moment as they look to soak up the early pressure. In fact, a Finnish newspaper produced a picture of the starting eleven in a bus and that gives some indication of their defensive mentality this evening.
Spain are the team forcing the early pressure and Iniesta goes close to unlocking the Finland defence with a scooped pass over the top. He is of course partnered by Barcelona teammate Xavi and an unfamiliar face in Mario Suarez, who makes his debut this evening.
Jordi Alba's strong run down the left results in the away side winning the first corner of the game. However, Pasanen is highest to head clear Xavi's delivery. Fantastic, intimidating atmosphere at the Helsinki National Stadium.
Spain respond immediately with an attack of their own but Villa's shot from the edge of the box is too close to Maenpaa, who makes a comfortable stop. 56 goals for him in the red national jersey, can he add to that tally today?
Finland threaten down the left wing but Ring's shot is well blocked by Albiol, who looks to impress in Pique's absence.
Finland get the ball rolling, kicking off from left to right in their traditional white jerseys.
The big debate amongst Spanish fans was who would start between the sticks this evening. Victor Valdes has been in fine form for Barcelona but Vicente del Bosque decides to stick with Iker Casillas, who makes his 150th international appearance.
SPAIN (4-3-3): Casillas; Koke, Ramos, Albiol, Alba; Mario Suárez, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Fabregas, Villa.
FINLAND (4-5-1): Maenpaa; Toivio, Moisander, Pasanen, Arkivuo; Ring, Tainio, Halsti, Schuller, Eremenko; Pukki.
Without any further ado, here are tonight's lineups...
Yet, despite Spain's slip-up in Gijon, they have been very consistent on their travels and have won all three of their away matches in Group I, scoring six goals without reply.
Can Finland cause another upset and allow France to replace Spain at the top of group I? Bringing you all the action from the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, my name is Max Bentley.
In fact, Mixu Paatelainen's side have drawn their last two matches against La Furia Roja. The 1-1 draw in Gijon back in March marked the first time that Spain had dropped points in an international tournament qualifying campaign since Iceland's 1-1 draw in September 2007.
Victory for Spain tonight would edge the world champions closer to cementing their place in the 2014 World Cup finals in Rio de Janeiro but they face a Finland side which has proved difficult to crack in recent years.
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