* Spain beat Ukraine 1:0 unimpressively in Seville to stay second in Euro 2016 qualifying Group C three points behind Slovakia and three ahead of Ukraine. The top two qualify for France.
With Diego Costa injured, Juventus’ Alvaro Morata took his chance and grabbed the game’s only goal in the 28th minute, latching on to a through-ball from Koke and exploiting the gap between the two centre-halves to beat the goalkeeper via a looping deflection from a defender’s leg.
Spain probably deserved to win given they had 64% of the ball, outshot Ukraine 17 to 9 and outpassed them 647 to 271. Yet two fingertip saves from Iker Casillas in the second half and Spain’s failure to threaten the goal for any meaningful spell after scoring left a lot of scratching of heads.
Their flat second half left coach Vicente Del Bosque with in his own words, “a bad taste in the mouth.”
Del Bosque, the kindly, huggable grandad on the touchline still seems impossible to hate, which is a huge advantage for a national https://synecoretech.com team manager.
Most coaches would have been shown the door after such a disastrous World Cup, but there is also a lack of real alternatives, assuming the RFEF wants a Spaniard. La Liga’s highest-placed coach from the country is the Basque Unai Emery, in charge of Sevilla.
Spain still has a panoply of attacking flair, so much so they could leave Santi Cazorla and Cesc Fabregas on the bench, but is fumbling in search of a playing style following the eclipse of the golden years of tiki-taka.
Xavi has left the scene along with it seems Fernando Torres, and while Andres Iniesta is still only 30 and played 74 minutes, he is not quite the outstanding player as before.
David Silva has taken over as the hub of creativity in La Roja, and his changes of pace, creation of angles and general unpredictability were in evidence again at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Atletico’s Koke & Real’s Isco stepped up in midfield, hinting at the future heart of the side, but otherwise the veterans Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos ran the show at the back and Casillas ruled the roost between the sticks, reminding his critics of how agile he still is aged 33.
Morata read his lines perfectly by scoring the winner, but admitted it had not been his best match for Spain.
The Juve striker explained Ukraine had been “very tough and very physical” and had made it hard to impose himself on the game.
The evidence the 22 year-old can dislodge Costa for good as Spain’s main golscorer remains inconclusive.
Jordi Alba hobbled off with a hamstring pull and the Barça full back is expected out for about ten days.
La Roja have a friendly away to Holland on Tuesday before resuming ‘Eurocopa’ action in Belarus on the 14th of June.
* The inquest into Barcelona’s El Clásico triumph dominated much of the week in the Madrid-based press, while Catalonia’s equivalents rejoiced.
The most extreme reaction was from three Real aficionados who had waited up into the small hours outside Real’s training ground and struck the cars of Gareth Bale and Jese as they drove away in darkness, hurling insults.
Sergio Ramos then bravely stopped his vehicle, wound down the window and tried to reason with one of the morons, a club member who was subsequently banned from the Bernabeu.
68% of Real fans when polled said they would drop Bale from the side, as stats showed he misplaced half of his passes at the Camp Nou, although he was arguably wrongly flagged offside for a goal.