Wednesday, October 27, 2021

I was on the verge of a heart attack! – Luis Enrique relieved after late Olmo winner

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Mar 2021

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Luis Enrique joked he was on the verge of a heart attack after Spain required a last-gasp Dani Olmo strike to see off Georgia 2-1 in Sunday’s World Cup 2022 qualifier.

Spain played out a 1-1 draw with Greece in their opening Group B fixture on Thursday and were on the verge of being held by Georgia at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.

But substitute Olmo fired in a 25-yard winner in the 92nd minute to spare Spain’s blushes after Ferran Torres had earlier cancelled out Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s first-half opener.

Luis Enrique celebrated the goal wildly and admitted his side are bereft of confidence, having won just one of their last five games prior to the late victory in Tbilisi.

“I was on the verge of a heart attack,” he told TVE. “We have been losing confidence and you could see that in the first half. 

“We conceded from a slight defensive error and knew it would be complicated from that point on. Our intention was to play more passes inside and create more opportunities.”

Asked if Spain deserved their victory against a side ranked 83 places below them in the FIFA rankings, Luis Enrique said: “Yes. And if people think it isn’t then I do not care.

“If you score in the 90-something minute it is because you have worked hard for the goal. Each win will lift our morale but we cannot afford to relax now.”

Luis Enrique made seven changes from the Greece draw, including a first senior cap for Pedro Porro and a full debut for Bryan Gil.

Spain managed just two shots on target in their last match and only slightly improved in that regard against Georgia with three on-target attempts.

And with a home match against Kosovo to come on Wednesday in the last of this month’s triple-header of fixtures, Luis Enrique is expecting more teams to try to frustrate his side.

“Unfortunately this is the way it is going to be against Kosovo as well,” he said. “We made a lot of changes today but were very lucid. 

“There are no small rivals, especially when they all lock themselves behind the ball. If you are not on top of your game then you will suffer.”

Ramos was taken off at half-time against Greece and was an unused substitute on Sunday, but Luis Enrique reiterated that his skipper is not carrying an injury.

“He is fine,” the former Barcelona boss said. “I know that whatever I decide with Ramos it is going to generate controversy and debate. I am prepared for any situation.”

Torres’ equaliser 11 minutes into the second half was his fourth in three appearances for Spain and paved the way for half-time substitute Olmo’s long-range winner.

RB Leipzig midfielder Olmo credited Georgia for pushing his side all the way and insisted getting all three points was ultimately all that mattered.

“First, I must congratulate the whole team for getting the win,” he said. “We needed this victory, so I’m very happy that it ended like this.

“It is difficult to explain how I’m feeling. It’s unique. It is incredible and the support of the team when scoring and the emotion has been spectacular

“You have to speak well of Georgia – they played very well. They did us some damage on the counter-attack but we knew how to react.

“I think that everyone tries to play to their strengths. We are very clear about they way we play. Sometimes you can’t win, like against Greece, but today we have been able to get all three points.”

Spain have now earned four points from added-time goals in their 10 competitive matches since Luis Enrique returned, having previously battled back to earn Nations League draws against Germany and Switzerland.

La Roja are also the first team ever to score in 37 successive World Cup qualifying matches, breaking West Germany’s record set between 1934 and 1985.

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