Valletta (Malta): Spain’s Alvaro Morata broke a 15-month international scoring drought with two goals to power La Roja over Malta 2-0 in Round 2 of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The victory leaves Spain alone atop Group F with six points from two matches, followed by Sweden with four; Romania and Malta – each with three points; Norway with one; and the Faroe Islands, who have lost both of their games, reports Efe news.
Spain played the match at Ta’ Qali stadium in Valletta without head coach Luis Enrique, who stayed behind in Spain to deal with what the Spanish football federation described as a serious family situation.
La Roja enjoyed 84 per cent possession on Tuesday night, yet their first shot on goal didn’t come until a half-hour into the contest.
Planning for the match against a less-than-formidable foe, Luis Enrique made eight changes to the starting 11 in pursuit of giving match time to younger players and trying out new combinations.
The experiment was not exactly a roaring success, perhaps to the relief of Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello, son of John Bonello, the keeper who suffered through the national side’s epochal 12-1 loss to Spain 36 years ago in Seville.
In the 31st minute, seconds after threatening with a header, Morata took a long pass in space and drew Bonello off his line before blasting the ball into the net – his first goal for Spain in 500 days.
The pattern carried over into the second half, as a dogged Malta squad remained disciplined and continued to chase every ball.
With 10 minutes gone after the re-start, assistant coach Robert Moreno started to make changes, starting with the substitution of Iker Muniain for Juan Bernat.
Moreno next tapped Jesus Navas to replace Saul Ñiguez and the moves quickly translated into more chances for the Spaniards.
Marco Asensio wasted a few opportunities before a fine cross by Navas found Morata and the striker struck home with a powerful header to make it 2-0 for Spain in the 73rd minute.
Job done, Morata went off with 10 minutes left and Spain came away with all three points.