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Costa vs. Bonucci showdown as Italy and Spain battle to draw; Ivanovic scores as Serbia dominate; England U21 qualify for Euro 2017

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

For most of Thursday's Italy vs. Spain World Cup qualifier, the only remotely interesting thing happening on the pitch was the private battle between the two no.19s, Chelsea striker Diego Costa and future Chelsea center back Juventus lifer Leonardo Bonucci.  There is of course a bit of historical precedent for Costa dueling with big name center backs just before becoming teammates with them -- John Terry (Chelsea vs. Atletico) and David Luiz (PSG vs. Chelsea) come to mind -- but that speculative little nugget aside, it looked like Costa vs. Bonucci would ultimately decide the outcome of the qualifying match between two of the last three winners of the World Cup.

Alas, Costa never quite managed to lose the attentions of Bonucci, and the one time that he did, he was flagged (probably incorrectly) offside.  Costa did save Bonucci from a serious case of dengue fever however when he smashed that evil mosquito sitting on the Juventus man's nose.  What a mighty mighty good man!

Bonucci repaid this kindness my play-acting his way to a hands-to-the-face yellow for Diego, who then came close to collecting a second with a couple half-moments worthy of such an award.  I'm sure those moments will not become talking points in the media.  Spain boss Julen Lopetegui then remembered that discretion is the better part of valor and withdrew the Chelsea man just past the hour mark.

Spain had taken the lead by then thanks to Gianluigi Buffon celebrating his 17,000th international cap with an absolute howler, but Italy salvaged a draw late on when Sergio Ramos fouled Eder inside the box and De Rossi coolly slotted home from the penalty spot.

Elsewhere, well-rested Chelsea vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic scored Serbia's second goal as they dominated Moldova on the road.  This was only the third win in a competitive match for Serbia in three years, but they're off to a decent start in a wide-open qualifying group that also includes Wales, Austria, and Ireland.  All four teams are tied on four points after the first two games.

Earlier in the day, four Chelsea youngsters were involved as England U21 booked their place at next summer's Euro U21 Championship with a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan and their raucous, sold out stadium.

Lewis Baker, Nathaniel Chalobah, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all started in midfield while Tammy Abraham made a five-minute cameo at the end for his U21 debut.  Baker and Chalobah played the full game while Loftus-Cheek got over 70 minutes.  He came close to doubling England's advantage in the second half, but didn't get enough loft on his chip when clean through on goal and the keeper parried.  Chalobah, playing as the base of the midfield triangle, was once again perhaps the most impressive of the Chelsea contingent.

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