Soccer

Spain beats Finland 2-0 in WCup qualifier

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HELSINKI (AP)

Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo both scored Friday to give Spain a 2-0 win over Finland in a World Cup qualifier, putting the defending champion a step closer to next year's tournament in Brazil.

Alba put Spain up in the 19th minute after a period of early domination, and Negredo sealed the win in the 86th, taking a cross from Jesus Navas to slot the ball past Niki Maenpaa in the Finnish goal.

The win leaves Spain in command of Group I with a three-point lead over France after its main rival was held to a 0-0 draw by Georgia in Tblisi. Finland plays Georgia away on Tuesday, while Spain's next match is at home against Belarus on Oct. 11.

''The most important thing today was all three points,'' Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. ''It was a difficult match. Every time they came out there was some danger. They're three important points.''

Del Bosque picked Iker Casillas in goal ahead of Barcelona's Victor Valdes, despite the Real Madrid keeper's lack of playing time to start the season. With Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso both out, Del Bosque gave Atletico Madrid's Mario Suarez his second cap as defensive midfielder.

Finland came out trying to attack when it had the ball, with Rasmus Schuller creating some chances down the right flank in the opening minutes and feeding Alexander Ring in the penalty area, but his although Ring's shot was eventually saved by Casillas.

Spain's superior skill and technique began to tell, however, with Finland sometimes forced to defend with nine players around their penalty area. Cesc Fabregas spotted a darting run fromi Alba in the 19th, and the Barcelona player slotted the ball underneath Maenpaa to give Spain the lead.

Finland kept probing, with Teemu Pukki and Ring missing half-chances, but it was no surprise when Negredo took advantage of tired Finnish legs to complete the victory.

Finland coach Mixu Paatelainen was unhappy with his side's performance against the world and European champions.

"I'm disapppointed that we didn't take points from this game,'' Paatelainen said. ''I think we had enough chances to take something but we didn't take them. We opened a little to try and get an equalizer and they scored the second with a very, very good counter-attack. We defended poorly in that situation.''

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