KRAKOW, Poland — It’s a tough life on the road for new FIFA member Kosovo.
Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Ukraine in a Group I game staged in Poland meant the Kosovans have conceded nine goals this week at neutral venues.
Fresh off a 6-0 “home” loss to Croatia which was actually played in Albania because Kosovo still doesn’t have a certified stadium, Kosovo had to face Ukraine in Poland because the Ukrainian government doesn’t recognize the tiny Balkan nation’s independence.
Second-best for most of the game, Kosovo nevertheless kept the margin to 1-0 until the 81st minute, when Andriy Yarmolenko scored one goal, then set up another, to end a five-game winless run for Ukraine. The Dynamo Kiev winger has scored in all three of Ukraine’s games so far in World Cup qualifying as the team tries to rebuild after losing all its games at the European Championship.
There had been fears of crowd trouble but the game appeared to pass off peacefully.
Ukraine took the lead thanks to Artem Kravets’ deflected first-half goal. Kosovo could have taken something from the game, with Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov coming close to an own-goal in the 61st before a Kosovan shot rattled the crossbar minutes later.
Ukraine was angered by having three close penalty appeals turned down, but nerves were calmed when Yarmolenko controlled a cross from substitute Alexander Karavayev and slotted it into the net. Soon after, he set up the third goal for Ruslan Rotan, who had seen an earlier strike ruled out because offside players were interfering with play.
FINLAND 0, CROATIA 1
Mario Mandzukic hasn’t had much luck in front of goal for Juventus this season, but he can’t stop scoring for his country.
Fresh off a hat trick against Kosovo, the Croatia star scored the only goal of the game in Finland with a simple finish from point-blank range after Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky failed to deal with Andrej Kramaric’s cross.
That keeps Croatia top of the group on seven points, level with Iceland and two ahead of Ukraine. Only the group winner qualifies automatically for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Finland is level with Kosovo at the bottom of the group on one point.
ICELAND 2, TURKEY 0
After Iceland’s impressive run at the European Championship, the success keeps coming.
Turkey is the latest victim, beaten 2-0 in Iceland thanks to two goals shortly before halftime. The first was an own-goal from center-back Omer Toprak before Iceland forward Alfred Finnbogason scored with a volley 90 seconds later, hitting the back of the net for his third international game in succession.
Iceland went out to France in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. It reached the playoffs in 2014 World Cup qualification, losing to Croatia, which may prove its toughest opponent in the current qualifying campaign too.
Coach Fatih Terim’s Turkey, meanwhile, now has just one win from its last seven games, continuing a miserable year which also included a group stage exit at the European Championship.
Turkey has two points in Group I after three matches.