Spain rallies to top Georgia, Ibrahimovic helps Sweden again

MADRID (AP) — Spain needed a late goal to salvage its first victory in World Cup qualifying on Sunday, while Sweden kept on winning with Zlatan Ibrahimovic again contributing with assists.

Substitute Dani Olmo scored with a long-range shot two minutes into second-half stoppage time as Spain came from behind to beat Georgia 2-1, while Ibrahimovic set up two goals in Sweden’s 3-0 win at Kosovo.

It was the second consecutive win for Sweden, which stayed top of Group B with six points from two matches. Spain reached four points to stay in second place after an opening 1-1 home draw against Greece.

The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic, returning to international soccer after almost five years, had already set up his team’s winner against Georgia on Thursday.

He knocked the ball down for Ludwig Augustinsson’s opener in the 12th minute on Sunday, then sent a low pass across for Alexander Isak’s second in the 35th. Ibrahimovic was substituted in the 67th, three minutes before Sebastian Larsson’s third goal from a penalty kick after a handball.

Kosovo, in its second World Cup qualifying campaign, had no attempts on target.

Olmo netted Spain’s late winner with a right-footed shot from outside the area, with the ball finding the top corner after Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria couldn’t swat it away hard enough.

“It’s hard to explain my feelings after scoring a goal like this for my national team,” Olmo said. “This is incredible.”

Spain coach Luis Enrique revamped the starting lineup from the game against Greece on Thursday, making six changes to the squad. He introduced youngsters Bryan Gil, Pedri González and Pedro Porro from the start but the team continued to struggle.

Luis Enrique said it was one of the most difficult matches for Spain under his command, and that he expects his team to continue to face problems against less-traditional teams that play defensively.

“I’ll take the suffering if in the end we win it,” he said, adding that he almost had a “heart attack” during the game.

Sergio Ramos, coming off a long injury layoff, also was dropped from the opener, when he played only in the first half.

The hosts opened the scoring with a low shot from inside the area by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in the 44th minute after the Spain defense failed to contain a nice buildup by the Georgia attack.

Spain improved in the second half and Ferran Torres equalized from close range in the 55th after Jordi Alba’s cross from the left, earning his fifth goal in six starts with the Spanish national team.

Georgia players dropped to the ground in despair when Loria couldn’t stop Olmo’s late strike. That sealed the team’s defeat in front of a limited crowd that was allowed to watch amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia midfielder Levan Shengelia was sent off after Olmo’s goal for a hard foul on Pedri.

On Wednesday, Spain hosts Kosovo and Georgia visits Greece.

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