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Euro 2016 qualifying: Chelsea trio helps Spain to easy win over Slovakia

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Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Over a quarter of the Spain starting lineup hailed from Chelsea, while two more with connections to the Blues were on the bench as La Furia Roja dispatched pesky little Slovakia with relative ease.  Cesc Fabregas (now just two shy of a century of caps), new boy Pedro Rodriguez, and Diego Costa all started, while Cesar Azpilicueta and ex-Chelsea favorite Juan Mata took their seats on the bench.

The three Chelsea men were joined by four from Barcelona and one each from Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto, and Manchester City.  It was the lone representative from the latter, David Silva, who ran the show, creating Spain's opener inside of 5 minutes.  The outcome was never in doubt after that, despite Spain's insistence at overplaying and overpassing just about every attack — Cesc Fabregas' maddening moment in the second half to pass up a shooting opportunity when left wide open 7 yards out perhaps the crowning achievement of this silly habit.

Slovakia had a tiny chance to rewrite the inevitable script, taking advantage of a bit of clowning around by Sergio Ramos in the opening minutes ... but Robert Mak showed just why he's ended up playing in Greece after gracing the academy of Manchester City once, and fired wide when 1-on-1 with Iker Casillas.  Spain went up the other end scored their first, adding a second from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark.  The penalty was won by Diego Costa — not the strongest case you'll ever see for a spot kick in fairness, but it was heartening to see a decision go in the provocateur's favor for once.  As usual, Costa cut a fairly peripheral figure for Spain otherwise, though much of Slovakia's attentions were focused on him (even without the suspended Martin Skrtel), thus creating space in-behind for others to run on.  He was withdrawn with 15 minutes to go.  Cesc was taken off a few minutes earlier.  Pedro played the full 90; Azpilicueta went an unused sub.

With the win, Spain jump back over Slovakia on goal difference to the top of Group C, both teams guaranteed at least the playoffs for next summer's tournament already.  One better than that is what England have already accomplished, thanks to the 6-0 beatdown of useless San Marino.  Gary Cahill didn't even need to play as the Three Lions become the first non-host nation to secure qualification for Euro 2016.  Seven wins out of seven, 24 goals scored, just 3 conceded (all 3 to Slovenia, oddly) — tremendously impressive on player, yet somehow still so unconvincing in real life.  Congrats to Wayne Rooney and Own Goal for matching Bobby Charlton's record of 49 international goals for England.

Elsewhere, Willian played most of the match as Brazil won a friendly against Costa Rica — HULK played center forward; why didn't they think of this before? — while both Baba Rahman and Christian Atsu participated in Ghana's 1-0 win over Rwanda in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.  Less successfully, the Super Eagles of Nigeria only managed a 0-0 draw in Tanzania.  Kenneth Omeruo played the full match (and received a gash for his troubles).