Spain were made to work hard this evening in Shkoder to break down a dogged Albanian side who defended in depth but rarely troubled David de Gea in the Spanish goal. Zero shots on target for De Biasi's side who betrayed his pre-match promise of not "parking the bus".
Most opposing coach's are now acutely aware of Spain's game-plan and Albania seemed happy to contain the men in white and launch occasional counter attacks. Spain played their usual possession game but lacked that creative spark that so often Andres Iniesta and David Silva provide and Diego Costa had a first forty five minutes to forget with the Chelsea striker largely anonymous on the Loro Borici pitch.
The opening goal came from a poor mistake by Albanian keeper Berisha, who up to that point was level to everything that was thrown at him by the Spain front-line. His clearance went straight to Viltolo who fed David Silva in space. The City player generously squared for Diego Costa to slot home.
Eight minutes later substitute Nolito was quickly involved in the action robbing the Albanian no. 4 and slotted home from an acute angle to end the contest as Spain sucked any life from the game with the Albanian's impotent in amending their initial game-plan. A lifeline for De Biasi's team came from Skopje with Macedonia leading other Group G favourite Italy 2-1 only for the Azzurri to claim a late 95th minute winner through Immobile.
Spain and Italy top the group with seven points respectively with Macedonia La Roja's next rivals in Granada in November.
Albania 0-2 Spain: As it happened:
Min 93 | That's all from Shkoder as the Dutch official calls time. 3 points for Spain with a home game vs. Macedonia next up for Lopetegui's men in November.
Min 91 | 3 minutes of added time ....as Italy go ahead against Macedonia, cruel for the home side as the Azzurri join Spain at the top of the group on 7 points a piece.
Min 90 | We head into the last minute of normal time with Spain in possession as they have been for most of the evening in Shkoder. 23% v 77%
Min 88 | Free-kick for Spain as Noilto is upended on the edge of the Albanian box. Nolito and Silva stand over the ball as Silva strikes ...over the bar ...
Min 87 | Shouts of Es-pa-ña, Es-pa-ña from the small travelling support as the rain hammers down in Shkoder
Min 85 | Albania shots on target: 0 ! Expected more and better from a side who impressed us all at Euro 2016 !
Min 83 | With just over 5 minutes left here and in Macedonia, Spain currently sit top of Group G on 7 points.
Min 81 | Ramos seems to have taken a knock to the right leg and looked reasonable distressed.
Min 79 | Sergio Ramos looks in bother after taking a knock and need to be replaced. He hands the armband to Silva as Iñigo Martinez takes his place.
Min 77 | Iniesta the player to come off as Isco comes on. A fitting standing ovation from the home crowd for one of the best players of our generation !
Min 76 | Isco set to come on for Lopetegui's side.... as Italy pull level in Skopje!
Min 75 | Change for Albania: Xaka off and Hyka on
Min 73 | Spain now in cruise control mode with the result from Skopje still Macedonia 2-1 Italy. A great result for "La Roja" and indeed Albania who must have an eye on the runner-up and play-off place in Group G.
Min 71 | Mavraj gets booked as Albania have completely run out of ideas and confidence
Min 66 | Still plenty of noise coming from the home supporters as Spain start to exert complete control with the scoreline two quick goals adding to the confidence level.
Change for Albania as Basha come son and takes Memusaj's place
Min 63 | What an impact the City player makes! scoring just after coming on and making the goal himself. Great determination from the Cadiz born player robbing Hysaj and slotting home
Min 63 | Nolitooooooooooooooooo makes it 2 for Spain
Min 62 | A time for De Biasi to amend his game plan?
Min 60 | Nolito comes on for Spain taking Vitolo's place as more incredible news comes in from Skopje as Macedonia go ahead 2-1 to Italy!
Min 58 | Shock news comes in from Skopje where Macedonia have just equalized against "Gli Azzurri", the Macedonians are the second lowest seed in Group G and if the result were to stay like that it would be a major, major shock in European football.
Min 56 | A dreadful mistake from the Albanian keeper sends the ball to Vitolo who finds Silva in space and very unselfishly squares for Diego Costa to bag his fourth international goal in a Spain shirt.
Min 55 | Goooooooooooooooooooooooool, Diego Costa
Min 53 | Albania coach De Biasi stated in the pre-match press conference that he had no plans of parking the bus.....the fibber !
Min 50 | It's been far from a vintage performance from Diego Costa who really hasn't gelled as a Spain No. 9 as Silva fires a left footer goal-bound but fails to trouble Berisha.
Min 49 | A matter of time before we see the introduction of Nolito or Morata ?
Min 47 | Berisha saves comfortably from a Pique header
Min 46 | One change at the break...Aliji on for Lenjani
Min 46 | We're underway again in Shkoder...
Albania - Spain, first half summary:
A familiar pattern developing this evening in Shkoder as is the case when Spain face "theoretically" weaker teams. Plenty of possession from "La Roja" as the opposition play ten men behind the ball but so far at the Loro Borici the Spanish lack that sparkle of magic that an Andres Iniesta or David Silva can produce. A very predictable build up from Lopetegui's men is being easily dealt with by De Biasis's organised side who with just a higher degree of self belief could even cause a greater threat to De Gea's goal.
Albania 0-0 Spain (end of the first half)
HT - Our Dutch official calls time on proceedings and in at the break with nothing to trouble the scoreboard.
Card | Second card of the evening is awarded to Albania's Agolli.
Min 45 | We move into the last minute of the half with 1 minute to be added.
Min 42 | Decent spell of possession from Spain but ultimately it comes to nothing. Far too common place tonight. Spain clearly the better side but up against a well organised and disciplined De Biasi side.
Min 38 | Diego Costa marauds forward and is chopped down by Xhaka. Benevolent officiating from the Dutch official as he keeps his yellow card in his pocket.
Min 36 | A sea of smoke wafting onto the pitch from behind Berisha's goal as local fans light flares in the stands. Cut that out says the chap over the PA system .... we assume ; )
Min 35 | Good volley from Roshi but the ball always drifting wide of De Gea's goal.
Min 32 | Possession: 24% vs 76% for the visitors. Once again Spain able to out-class and out pass the opposition but worryingly just 2 shots on target in the 32 minutes to date..just as the ball falls to Diego Costa from a Ramos delivery and the Chelsea player fails to get his head on the assist.
Min 30 | Excellent scooped ball from Thiago finds Koke in the area but the Atleti player just fails to control the delivery.
Min 27 | Albania break forward as Roshi fires a dangerous ball into the area. Fortunately for La Roja the ball was cut out by a white shirt. Better from the home side now as they start to build in self confidence.
Card | First booking of the night goes to Thiago for a foul on Hysaj
Min 24 | Spain piling on the pressure as Koke wins a corner for "La Roja" as we see that Italy have just gone ahead against Macedonia to go (temporarily) top of Group G.
Min 20 | Discreet 20 minutes or so from Diego Costa so far. The Chelsea striker yet to find his rhythm tonight in Shkoder.
Min 18 | Nearly from Vitolo .... fine angled right foot curler from the Sevilla player that forces an excellent stop from Berisha.
Min 16 | No defined pattern to the game at present, despite their dominance in possession Spain struggling to find a way through the wall of red shirts. A night for the Silva and Iniesta magic ....
Min 15 | Possession in the first 15': Albania 21% vs. 79% Spain
Min 14 | Albania setting up with two lines of and prepared to hit Spain on the break.
Min 11 | Vitolo comes close for Spain as his shot is palmed out by Berisha
Min 10 | Danger as Albania break. Xhaka fails to find a team-mate with the decisive pass and the move breaks down. Better from the home side.
Min 7 | Pique goes close for Spain but the linesman had the flag up for an infringement.
Macedonia vs. Italy is the other game in Group G this evening with Spain hoping for an upset in Skopje tonight.
Min 4 | Already played this evening in Group G: Israel 2-1 Liechtenstein. A narrow win for the Israeli side who move onto 6 points.
Min 2 | Spain in control in the opening spell at a damp Loro Borici stadium. A temperature of 14C and more rain foreast during the 90 minutes
Min 1 | We're underway in Albania...
Albania v Spain kick-off
20:44 | A sea of red and black at the Loro Borici stadium this evening with just a handful of visiting supporters.
20:43 | The teams take to the pitch, Spain in all white and the home side in their traditional red shirts, black shorts and red socks.
20:38 | Heavy rain in Shkoder today has meant the pitch at the Loro Borici will be "heavy" tonight. The stadium was used on Thursday to host Kosovo's "home" gave against Croatia and Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has already voiced his concern about the state of the playing surface.
20:35 | Kick off looming at the Loro Borici stadium. A packed house tonight of 14.000 fans earning one of the best pay-day's in recent times for the Albanian FA.
19:45 | The teams are in. De Gea; Piqué, Ramos, Monreal; Busquets, Koke, Thiago, Iniesta; Vitolo, Diego Costa and Silva will start for Spain. Albania's 11 is as follows: Berisha; Hysaj, Djimisti, Mavraj, Aliji; Shaka; Roshi, Basha, Hyka, Llullaku; Balaj
19. 15 | Spain's recent record on the road is a cause for some concern for Julen Lopetegui. In La Roja's last 11 away games the side have won just four.
18:45 | Two hours to go until kick-off in Shkodër. How will Spain line-up for the match? Will Diego Costa or Álvaro Morata lead the line. We'll bring you team news as soon as it comes in.
17:30 | Spain have gone a staggering 55 matches in World Cup qualifiers without being beaten. Can Albania upset the apple cart tonight?
17:00 | Spain and Albania have met five times before, with Spain victorious on every occasion with an aggregate score of 24-2. In qualifying for Euro '92, Emilio Butragueño bagged four goals in a 9-0 win.
15:45 | Albania schemer Gianni De Biasi has denied he will be parking the bus to thwart Spain this evening: "I don't have one big enough for that," he said. Incidentally, Di Biasi was manager at Levante in 2007-08, a season when the coastal club kept four clean sheets and were relegated in 20th place.
15:00 | A reminder that Albania are currently group leaders after Spain and Italy shared the points in Turin. The Eagles have beaten Macedonia and Liechtenstein in their opening two games.
14:40 | Concerns have been raised about the state of the pitch at the Loro Boroçi stadium in Shkodër. The visiting players were out on the turf the evening before the game to get a feel for the surface, which has been described as being a bit bumpy.
13:59 | Although we need to wait a few more hours for confirmation of the team line-ups, we can confirm our own. Resident AS football hipster Paul Reidy will be taking you through the game tonight with his insight into the formation, tactics and personnel...and he's more than likely going to give you the lowdown on the boots on show or Albanian club football!
13:22 | The referee for the game will be Bas Nijhuis from the Netherlands. The 39 year-old has twice been in charge of Spain games in which they have won both.
12:51 | ...on the back of the last update, David de Gea has also been speaking about Chelsea's front man.
12:46 | AS editor Alfredo Relaño has been speaking this morning about two big players for Spain, Diego Costa and Sergio Ramos, who he thinks are under the microscope tonight.
12:07 | Did you see what happened in last night's European qualifiers?
11:48 | We hope that you'll join us here for our inimitable chat but if you want to have some images to support our text then here's a guide to how and where you can watch the game.
11:09 | Want to know more about the Loro Boiçi stadium? Well, the original build was completed in 1952 and it has recently gone through it's third renovation. It holds just over 16,000 spectators - the second largest in Albania - and is named (renamed in the 1980s after the fall of communism) after one of their most famous players.
10:47 | Weather update: it's around 14°C at the moment in Shkodra with some thunderstorms in the area. Temperatures during the game will be about the same although the threat of lightning strikes - certainly from the skies - should have passed by then.
Albania vs Spain: World Cup qualifying Group G - Match preview
Spain visit early group leaders Albania knowing that a win will be the least that their travelling fans, and the many more back home, are expecting even if the team and manager themselves are speaking much more cautiously about the challenge faced tonight. After throwing away two points against Italy in the opening game in which they dominated for the majority of it a win and a convincing clinical performance is what is now needed.
The hosts have never seen anything other than a defeat against their more illustrious visitors - five games played - but have seen their stock rise over recent years and their opening group wins over Macedonia (2-1) and Liechtenstein (0-2) will have given them confidence going into this match. The Balkan side have actually won four of their last five going back into the summer European championships.
Albania will not want to lose a goal early but know that Spain will dominate possession from the off so will aim to maintain their defensively solidity which has seen them concede only one in four games. They are likely to start in a 4-1-4-1 formation but this could be corcertina'd into a defensive wall when required. Bekim Balaj is the man they will look to at the other end when opportunities do arise. He already has two goals in his last two games and another tonight against one of the world's elite would raise his standing even further.
Manager Julen Lopetegui has been speaking with plenty of respect for Albania ahead of this fixture and has talked about not being complacent. Although the gulf in class between players, he knows fine well that in international football these days there are often surprise results...and the reported uneven pitch may, ironically, prove somewhat of a leveller.
Out of the team we already know will be Barcelona's Jordi Alba who picked up an injury in that Italy game. He'll almost certainly be directly replaced with Real Madrid's versatile defender, Nacho. Other than that, the same team is likely to remain with the key decision for the manager being in midfield: two out of Iniesta, Thiago and Koke. Spain can expect Albania to keep it tight and so the question again is how quickly they can move the ball, create gaps and find runners. The use of Vitolo and Silva wide - along with the overlapping Carvajal and Nacho could be the answer but in Diego Costa the team can vary the style if required with early balls into him to hold up and release supporting players.
Albania vs Spain: Possible team starting line-ups
Albania XI: Berisha, Aliji, Mavraj, Djimsti, Hysaj, Shaka, Llullaku, Hyka, Basha, Roshi, Balaj
Spain XI: De Gea, Carvajal, Piqué, Ramos, Nacho, Busquets, Iniesta, Koke, Vitolo, Silva, Costa