David Silva netted the only goal as Spain battled their way to a 1-0 victory against Belarus in their Euro 2016 qualifier in Borisov.
Spain had comfortably dispatched their opponents 3-0 in the reverse fixture back in November, but proceedings were not quite so straightforward in this Group C encounter.
The visitors dominated the first period, and took the lead in the final minute of the half when Silva smashed home following a free-kick from Cesc Fabregas.
Belarus improved markedly after the interval, with both Sergei Kornilenko and Maksim Bordachev wasting excellent opportunities to equalise.
Double defending European champions Spain have now won five of their six qualifying matches, and remain well set to seal an automatic place in next year’s France finals.
The result leaves Vicente del Bosque’s side three points behind group leaders Slovakia – who maintained their 100 per cent record with a 2-1 victory over Macedonia – while Belarus are fourth, eight points adrift of Ukraine and seemingly out of the running.
Spain began the game on the front foot and home goalkeeper Andrei Gorbunov twice had to deny Pedro in the opening 12 minutes.
The keeper was called into action again in the 19th minute, holding onto Sergio Ramos’ free header from Fabregas’ corner.
Spain continued to look the more threatening and could have had a penalty when Silva went down under Bordachev’s challenge, before Jordi Alba lashed a volley narrowly over the crossbar.
Just when it seemed the visitors would be frustrated in their attempts to take a lead into half-time, a Belarus error handed them the breakthrough.
Gorbunov dithered underneath Fabregas’ free-kick from the left and Silva took one touch to control before thumping the ball past a posse of defenders on the line.
Having been on the back foot for the entire first half, Belarus had a golden opportunity to equalise four minutes after the resumption but Iker Casillas spread himself well to deny Kornilenko.
The visitors were given another let-off in the 55th minute when they failed to deal with a corner and Bordachev sliced wildly off target from a good position.
Ivan Maevski stung the palms of Casillas with a rasping shot from range, before Santi Cazorla brought a smart stop out of Gorbunov with a low drive in the 73rd minute.
Silva blasted straight at Gorbunov when he ought to have doubled his tally six minutes from time, but it mattered little as his earlier contribution ultimately proved decisive.
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