A late strike from Asier Illarramendi allowed Spain to finish their UEFA World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 with a 1-0 victory over Israel on Monday night at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
With the goal from the Basque midfielder and the three points, Spain finish atop Group G with a 9W-1D-0L record and 28 points.
Having already clinched their ticket to the World Cup in Friday's 3-0 win against Albania, Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui used the opportunity to give minutes to some of the national team's more fringe players, with Las Palmas midfielder Jonathan Viera earning his first cap and starts for goalkeeper Pepe Reina and forwards Marco Asensio and Aritz Aduriz.
Spain kept Israel goalkeeper Ariel Harush busy from the very beginning, with much of the danger coming from the left flank through Nacho Monreal and Marco Asensio.
There were also a couple probing efforts from distance from Aduriz and Sergio Ramos, but the best chance fell to Pedro minutes before the break on a counter. The Chelsea man collected a pass from Viera but fired right at Harush, sending the two teams to the dressing rooms still locked in a 0-0 draw.
Lopetegui wanted more attacking firepower to start the second half, so Ramos was replaced by Celta forward Iago Aspas, but it was still all possession and no goals when the clock reached the hour mark.
La Roja started creeping closer to a goal, first through Asensio and then from a long-range Viera shot. Lopetegui turned to his bench again, bringing on playmaker Isco for Aduriz and then Jose Maria Callejon for Pedro.
Finally, the goal came right as things trickled into the final quarter-hour. A corner kick deflected to Illarramendi, and the Real Sociedad man uncorked a slicing right-footer that tailed away from Harush and into the back of the net for the 1-0 final scoreline.
- Match facts:
Israel: Harush, Ben Haim, Melikson (Ben Chaim, min. 55), Natcho, Keltjens, Cohen, Hemed, Davidzada, Atar (Benayoun, min. 75), Tibi, Kabha (Bitton, min. 68).
Spain: Reina, Azpilicueta, Ramos (Aspas, min. 46), Nacho, Monreal, Busquets, Illarramendi, Jonathan Viera, Pedro (Callejon, min. 76), Asensio, Aduriz (Isco, min. 66).
Goal: 0-1, min. 76: Illarramendi;
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland).
Yellow Cards: Davidzaza (Min. 52) for Israel.
- Match report by marca.com