Spain made it four wins from as many games in Euro 2020 qualifying despite coach Luis Enrique’s continued absence as a second-half flurry saw them beat Sweden 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday.
Luis Enrique has been on leave since March due to a family emergency, but Robert Moreno continues to keep the ship on course in his stead, with Serio Ramos, Alvaro Morata and Alvaro Oyarzabal scoring in the final 26 minutes to send Spain five points clear in Group F.
Sweden could count themselves extremely fortunate to remain on level terms until the break, as Robin Olsen was forced into several fine saves and Dani Parejo had a goal controversially disallowed.
But Spain eventually found a way past Olsen via Ramos’ penalty, before Morata netted the game’s second spot-kick and Oyarzabal wrapped up the routine win.
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It did not take Spain long to establish control and they went close in the 14th minute when Fabian Ruiz’s long-range strike was acrobatically tipped over by Olsen.
That was the first of four vital saves in as many minutes, as Olsen then parried a goal-bound Parejo volley wide, palmed away Ramos’ header from the resulting corner and kept Isco’s placed effort out.
A few moments later Spain were harshly denied the lead for an apparent offside against Parejo before he squared to Rodrigo Moreno for an easy finish.
The onslaught resumed after the break and Spain finally got the breakthrough just past the hour, as Ramos swept home from the spot after Sebastian Larsson was adjudged to have handled a Marco Asensio cross.
Morata – Asensio’s replacement – followed Ramos’ example five minutes from time, converting after being felled by Mikael Lustig’s clumsy lunge.
A straightforward win was completed soon after – Oyarzabal curling a wonderful left-footed effort out of Olsen’s reach after Fabian’s pass.
What does it mean? Spain in complete control
The circumstances have hardly been perfect for Spain so far in qualifying, given Luis Enrique’s need to be elsewhere and the fact Group F is not devoid of quality.
But Spain are cruising nevertheless and giving plenty of players opportunities in the process. They are showing their depth, professionalism and ability, an ominous mix for the other teams who will fancy themselves as Euro 2020 champions.
Parejo the orchestrator
Spain never looked in trouble in midfield on Monday, predominantly due to the assuredness and control displayed by Parejo. The Valencia star completed 87 per cent of his 119 passes, created five chances and won all of his six duels. A near flawless outing.
Aside from the cross that luckily struck the flailing arm of Larsson, Asensio offered precious little. He made no key passes, touched the ball only 42 times and failed to register a single shot on target. Morata, who replaced him, was a much greater influence.
Spain return to action in September with a trip to Romania, which they will surely hope Luis Enrique can join them for. Sweden’s next game should see them claim a routine win away in the Faroe Islands.
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