OVIEDO (Spain) • Spain coach Vicente del Bosque defended Diego Costa after the Chelsea forward drew another blank in Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifying victory at home to Slovakia.
Holders Spain leapfrogged the Eastern Europeans to the top of Group C thanks to a 2-0 success in Oviedo but Costa, 26, again failed to score.
He has netted just one goal in eight appearances since opting last year to play for La Roja instead of his native Brazil.
Costa, who has struck just once for Chelsea in the English Premier League so far this season, did win a penalty, converted by Andres Iniesta after Jordi Alba's early header.
But he otherwise struggled to make any impact on Slovakia's well-drilled defence before making way for Paco Alcacer 15 minutes from time.
"Of course I would like him to score but he did some good work," del Bosque told a news conference.
"Against a team playing so defensively the player who has the most difficult job is the one in his position. He moved well, he kept the defenders busy. We have to be patient. A lot of the time when he gets the ball he has his back to goal."
With seven of 10 matches played, Spain and Slovakia each have 18 points, with the Spaniards, who lost 1-2 in Zilina in October, top due to a better head-to-head record.
Ukraine, who won 3-1 at home to Belarus earlier on Saturday and are assured of at least a play-off berth, are third on 15 points.
Spain travel to Skopje to play bottom side Macedonia in their next qualifier tomorrow, when Slovakia host Ukraine.