Spain’s defeat by Switzerland sets the stage for Portugal’s showdown

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After SPAIN’s surprising 2-1 home defeat by Switzerland on Saturday, La Roja will need to beat Portugal away on Tuesday to advance to the Nations League semi-finals.

Portugal topped Group A2 with a comfortable 4-0 win in the Czech Republic as Diogo Dalot scored twice and Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Jota also had goals.

Spain have little time to iron out their weaknesses ahead of the World Cup in two months and a familiar combination of poor finishing and soft defending from set pieces cost them against the Swiss in Zaragoza.

“Our first half was the most inaccurate since I’ve been in charge,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique after losing for the first time in nine games.

“I can’t remember a game where there were so many technical errors, especially in the two corners where we conceded goals.”

Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji headed the visitors ahead in the 21st minute.

The hosts reacted when Jordi Alba used a pass from Marco Asensio to fire high into the net in the 10th minute of the second half.

But shortly afterwards, another Switzerland corner was not cleared properly, so that Breel Embolo was able to roll in from a short distance.

Portugal sit two points ahead of Spain at the top of the group as they endured a far quieter evening in Prague.

Dalot was the unlikely hero as he scored his first two international goals.

The right-back found himself in a centre-forward position to put the opener in goal from close range before Fernandes completed a deft team movement in first-half injury time.

Dalot rolled his weaker left foot brilliantly into the bottom corner seven minutes into the second half.

Jota rounded off the goal by heading in late from a corner unmarked.

“The result speaks for itself, we played a great game and deserved to win,” said Dalot.

Scotland strikes back

Scotland need just a point from their midweek clash with Ukraine to climb to League A after beating the Republic of Ireland 2-1 from behind to stay top of Group B1.

John Egan gave the Irish an early lead at Hampden Park.

But Scotland fought back to retaliate for a 3-0 defeat in Dublin in June.

Jack Hendry headed in a Ryan Christie cross to equalize before Christie rolled the winner home from the penalty spot after Alan treated Browne in his own area.

“I’m battered and injured,” said Scotland captain John McGinn after a physical encounter in Glasgow.

“We’ll do everything we can to recover. It’s like a cup final on Tuesday.”

Ukraine maintained their chances to top the group with a 5-0 win over Armenia, with Artem Dovbyk scoring twice.

Norway had to wait for promotion to League A when Erling Haaland was overtaken by one of Europe’s other rising stars, Benjamin Sesko, in a 2-1 defeat by Slovenia.

Haaland stormed into the lead with his 21st goal in 22 internationals, but Salzburg striker Sesko, who has already agreed a move to RB Leipzig for next season, leveled with Andraz Sporar before clinching a long volley to win the game the hosts in Ljubljana.

Serbia are level on points with Norway at the top of Group B4 after Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a hat-trick in their 4-1 win over Sweden.

Israel’s eventual winners against Albania 2-1 secured promotion to League A.

Northern Ireland secured their first Nations League win thanks to Josh Magennis’ injury-time header as Ian Baraclough’s side beat Kosovo 2-1 in Belfast. -AFP

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