A 2-0 win against group leaders Albania saw Spain race to the top of Group G in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.
The hosts had only conceded one goal in their previous four outings and stood strong in their 5-4-1 formation against a flood of Spanish attacks.
Thiago Alcantara and Koke made driving runs whenever possible and they found themselves on the blindside of defenders on numerous occasions, yet the Albanian backline resisted with 10 of their 11 often in the penalty area.
Koke, Gerard Pique and Vitolo all missed glorious chances to give the 2010 World Cup champions the lead but were thwarted by a combination of solid defending and fantastic stops by Atalanta goalkeeper Berisha.
The scores were locked at 0-0 at half-time but the visitors didn’t take long to find the opener in the second period.
Spain dominated possession throughout the encounter and finally found the net when Berisha’s misplaced pass landed at the feet of Vitolo, who quickly found David Silva to tee up Costa for an easy tap into an empty net.
FULL-TIME: Albania 0-2 Spain. Nine goals now for Diego Costa this season. Spain move top of Group G thanks to a healthy goal difference pic.twitter.com/GdXp7ZQn0K
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) October 9, 2016
With the wind finally in their sails after a frustrating first half, Spain turned on the style and doubled the lead shortly after when Manchester City‘s Nolito curled Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal’s cut back into the far corner just two minutes after coming on for Vitolo.
Nolito’s fresh legs proved too much for Elseid Hysaj who was a spectator as the City man forced his way through for the second.
The visitors were then happy to see the clock tick down whilst moving the ball fluidly to open up the Albanian outfit and a player worth noting was Thiago.
The Bayern Munich midfielder was outstanding for the entirety of the game and at 25 years old, he is the poster boy for the new breed of Spanish midfielders that will take the baton from Iniesta and Silva within the coming years.
Spain captain and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos limped off with 10 minutes remaining, suffering from a suspected knee injury, the one negative of a satisfying night for Julen Lopetegui’s side.
Following the game, Gerard Pique shockingly announced that he plans to retire from international football in 2018.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia would be his final tournament with Spain because he feels he is not wanted in the national team.
“I always give everything I have on the field, but there are people who think it’s better if I’m not here,” Piqué said. “After Russia, a stage will have ended for me.” The player is often jeered by many Spaniards because of his pro-Catalonia stance.
Pique explaining that he had cut his long sleeves to play more comfortably &long sleeves don’t have Spain flag on it pic.twitter.com/MdzCvrRoIq
— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) October 10, 2016
He recently appeared to support a pro-independence move by the Catalan region, upsetting those who opposed it.
Spain currently top Group G, with only first place giving automatic qualification.