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Spain wins 25th straight qualifier at home to keep Scotland from clinching spot in Euro 2024

MADRID (AP) — Spain kept Scotland from becoming the first team to secure a place at the 2024 European Championship by beating the visitors 2-0 Thursday for its 25th consecutive home win in qualifiers.

Scotland only needed a draw to clinch a spot at its second straight Euros and was still level at 0-0 after more than 70 minutes. But two late goals for Spain in Seville ended Scotland’s perfect qualifying record and kept first place in Group A up for grabs.

Scotland still leads the group with 15 points, three more than Spain — which has a game in hand — and five more than Norway, which won 4-0 at Cyprus with two goals by Erling Haaland. The top two from each group will qualify automatically for Euro 2024 in Germany.

Scotland would still qualify if Norway fails to beat Spain at home on Sunday. Spain can move to the top of the group if it wins in Oslo.

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“One of the challenges here was to come and compete with a top European side, which Spain are. We did that,” Scotland coach Steve Clarke said. “If the result doesn’t go our way when Norway host Spain then we’re well equipped to take the point or points we need in the remaining two games next month. We are in that position because of the enormous work we’ve done in the group so far.”

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Israel was supposed to host Switzerland in Group I on Thursday, but its match was postponed until November because of the war with Hamas. Israel’s game at Kosovo scheduled for Sunday was also postponed. Israel is now due to play three qualifiers in the one-week international break next month designed for just two games.

Álvaro Morata and Oihan Sancet scored for Spain, which extended its home winning streak in European qualifiers in a run that started after a 1-0 loss against Greece in 2003.

Morata broke the deadlock with a header from a cross by Jesús Navas in the 73rd minute and Sancet sealed the win from close range in the 86th at La Cartuja Stadium.

“We undestood exactly how Scotland play,” Morata said. “They have tough, good footballers and we needed to ‘slow-cook’ the match. Eventually that worked and we got the three points.”

Scotland, which had no attempts in the first half, thought it had taken a 1-0 lead in the 60th when midfielder Scott McTominay scored with a superb free kick from a tight angle, but the goal was disallowed for an apparent offside by Jack Hendry.

Scotland played at Euro 2020 in what was its first appearance at the tournament since 1996.

There were nearly 4,000 very loud Scotland fans on hand among the crowd of more than 40,000 at La Cartuja. The Scots had complained after Spain midfielder Rodri called Scotland’s style of play “a bit rubbish” for wasting time and provoking opponents. His comments came after Scotland beat Spain 2-0 at home in March. Rodri said Thursday he didn’t mean any disrespect toward Scotland’s national team.

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Spain’s Bryan Zaragoza and Fran García made their national team debut by entering the match after halftime. Sancet also made his debut in the second half.

Spain was without Nico Williams because of a back issue. Lamine Yamal and Yeremi Pino had already been dropped from the squad because of injuries earlier in the week.

NORWAY STAYS IN CONTENTION

Haaland scored a pair of second half goals to end a three-game scoreless streak and lead Norway to victory at last-place Cyprus.

Alexander Sorloth had put the visitors ahead in the first half, and Fredrik Aursnes closed the scoring with a late goal.

OTHER GROUPS

Romania missed a chance to take the Group I lead after a 0-0 draw at Belarus, while Kosovo kept alive its chances with a 3-0 win at Andorra.

Albania stayed in front in Group E by beating the Czech Republic 3-0, while Poland moved to second place with a 2-0 win at the Faeroe Islands.

Turkey moved ahead of Croatia in Group D with a 1-0 win in Croatia. Latvia won 2-0 against third-place Armenia at home in the other group match.

RUSSIA IN ACTION

Russia defeated Cameroon 1-0 in its first men’s senior international game since the invasion of Ukraine against an opponent from outside Asia.

Russia had previously played three Central Asian nations, plus Iran, Iraq and Qatar. It has been banned from Euro 2024 qualifying because of the war in Ukraine.

Cameroon’s soccer federation president Samuel Eto’o is under pressure while facing an investigating by the Confederation of African Football for alleged “improper conduct.”

Sweden defeated Moldova 3-1 in another friendly on Thursday.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer