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Euro qualifying: Spain, Italy start with wins


Euro qualifying: Spain, Italy start with wins

Sergio Ramos scored a second-half penalty to help Spain beat a spirited Norway 2-1 on Saturday (Mar 23) in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier, while teenage striker Moise Kean netted in Italy's win over Finland. Spain were not at their clinical best in Valencia, but got their Group F campaign off to a solid start despite Norway threatening an upset.

Captain Sergio Ramos scored his 16th goal of the season - and his fifth chipped penalty - as Spain edged past Norway in their opening Euro 2020 qualifying game. Defender Ramos converted a 'Panenka' style spot-kick for the winning goal.

Former Bolton loanee Rodrigo scored the opener on his home ground in Valencia before Bournemouth's Joshua King equalised with a penalty for Norway.

Spain won the European Championship in 1964, 2008 and 2012.

They dominated the contest with 75% possession and 26 shots, with striker Alvaro Morata missing a number of chances for the hosts.

But he did earn Spain's penalty when tripped in the box by Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein, allowing centre-back Ramos to step up and dink in his 10th penalty of the season to take his tally to 90 career goals.

Juventus youngster Kean, 19, became the youngest striker to start for Italy in more than a century as Roberto Mancini's men saw off Finland 2-0.

Italy got off to a flying start in Udine, as Nicolo Barella gave them a seventh-minute lead with his maiden international goal. The 22-year-old Cagliari midfielder hammered home a low volley after a free-kick was only half-cleared by the Finnish defence. The day belonged to Kean, though, as he slotted in the second with 16 minutes to play to mark his full debut in style.

Italy are top of the early Group J standings ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who edged out Armenia 2-1 as captain Edin Dzeko became the first player in their history to be capped 100 times.

The other game in the group saw Greece win 2-0 against Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Earlier on Saturday, Mick McCarthy made an inauspicious start to his second stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland as his team laboured to a 1-0 victory over Gibraltar.

The 60-year-old McCarthy, who led Ireland to the 2002 World Cup last 16 before resigning later that year, was reappointed manager last November, replacing Martin O'Neill.

The result leaves Ireland second in the early Group D table behind Switzerland, who beat Georgia 2-0, but McCarthy will know he has plenty of work to do after seeing his men struggle to claim just their second win in 12 matches.

Elsewhere, World Cup quarter-finalists Sweden made a winning start in Group F as midfielders Robin Quaison and Viktor Claesson both scored in the space of seven first-half minutes in a 2-1 success over Romania.

- Source: News websites

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