MADRID: Former world champions Spain retained top spot in Group G after a 4-0 scoreline at home to Macedonia was matched by rivals Italy in Liechtenstein.
Having missed a good chance to put Macedonia ahead, Darko Velkovski’s own goal broke the deadlock in the 34th minute and Vitolo doubled the lead after half-time before Nacho Monreal and Aritz Aduriz finished things off.
Italy were in cruise control after just 45 minutes in Vaduz, having scored four times in the first half of a competitive match since January 1987 when they put five past Malta in a European Qualifier.
Andrea Belotti’s two goals sandwiched efforts from Ciro Immobile – his fourth in as many appearances for Italy – and Antonio Candreva.
With the job done the second half was a less intensive affair and although Italy stay level on 10 points with Spain their goal difference is inferior by five.
Israel moved into third place after beating previous incumbents Albania 3-0 thanks to goals from Eran Zahavi, Dan Einbinder and Eliran Atar.
In Group D Wales were held to a 1-1 draw by Serbia after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 86th-minute goal cancelled out Gareth Bale’s first-half strike.
It denied Chris Coleman’s side the chance to overtake their opponents and move into second place behind the Republic of Ireland, who assumed top spot following a first victory over Austria since 1963 courtesy of James McClean’s third goal in two matches.
Moldova gained their first point of the campaign with a 1-1 draw in Georgia as Alexandru Gatcan’s 78th-minute goal cancelled out Valeri Qazaishvili’s early effort.
Marcelo Brozovic scored both goals as Croatia opened up a gap at the top of Group I with a 2-0 win over nearest rivals Iceland.
The Inter Milan midfielder scored in the 15th and 90th minutes, after which Ivan Perisic was sent off.
Ukraine moved into second with a 1-0 win over Finland thanks to Artem Kravets’ first-half goal.
Turkey registered their first victory of the World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over newcomers Kosovo, with Burak Yilmaz and Volkan Sen scoring within four minutes of each other just after half-time.