Euro 2016 round-up: Spain 1 Czech Republic 0 - and what the result means

Czech Republic's Vladimir Darida (right) in action with Spain's David Silva at the Group D game on Monday in Stadium de Toulouse.
Czech Republic's Vladimir Darida (right) in action with Spain's David Silva at the Group D game on Monday in Stadium de Toulouse. PHOTO: REUTERS

They may be two-time defending champions, still Spain's run-up to Euro 2016 has been anything but smooth. Many critics have pointed to their lack of scoring bite up front as their possible Achilles heel in this tournament.

Their hard-earned 1-0 win over Czech Republic in their Group D opener on Monday did nothing to dispel that observation.

For all their domination on the ball - they had 72 per cent possession - the Spaniards needed 18 attempts before their central defender Gerard Pique ghosted past the Czech defence to head in their 87th-minute winner.

While Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech was in fine fettle to deny Spain on numerous occasions, the Spanish strike force of Alvaro Morata and later Aritz Aduritz were wasteful with their chances.

It may be three valuable points to kick off their campaign, but Spain coach Vicente del Bosque must be hoping that his strikers find their scoring touch soon, before tougher opponents line up in their way to a third straight Euro title.

 
 
 

Match highlights

- Superb point-blank block by Petr Cech in the 16th minute to keep out a toe-poke by an onrushing Alvaro Morata.

- Andres Iniesta puts Morata through in the 29th minute, but the Juventus striker pulls it wide from a narrow angle.

- David de Gea was called upon to make a save just before half-time, from a rasping drive from Tomas Necid.

- Cech comes to the rescue again in the 47th minute, as he first tips Fabregas' shot around the post, then blocks both Nolito's and Sergio Ramos' attempts in the resultant corner.

- Ladislav Krejci's free kick was met by Roman Hubnik, and de Gea is at full stretch to keep his attempt out in the 57th minute.

- Dangerous corner by Czech Republic in the 65th minute, and it needed Fabregas and then Ramos to clear goal-bound efforts.

- Jordi Alba put through in the 79th minute, rounds Cech, but Hubnik clears in the nick of time.

- At last, Spain manage to translate their domination into a goal, as Iniesta's cross from the left was headed in by Gerard Pique.

- De Gea was called upon to make a vital block from Vladimir Darida deep into stoppage time.

The talking point

It may be mesmerising for a while to watch Spain weave their "tiki-taka" football all over the befuddled Czech players, but frustration builds quickly as they squander chance after chance to put the ball into the net. Spain are walking the fine line between beautiful and toothless football.

Man of the Match

Petr Cech. The veteran Czech Republic goalkeeper made at least three outstanding saves to frustrate Spain, and could not be blamed for Pique's goal. A calming presence in the Czech defence as they repelled attack after attack.

What the result means

Spain will hope they can be far more clinical against Turkey - a side whom they have never lost to - to get the second win to guarantee their passage into the last 16. The Czech Republic, however, need to pick themselves up and play more expansively against Croatia in a must-win match. The last time the two sides met, Croatia won 4-2.

Key statistic

This is Pique's first goal in a major international tournament. He has five goals in total for Spain.

What they said

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta: "I always try to take responsibility when I play. That's how I enjoy my football and it's no different now. It's all about the collective, and in that sense having responsibility isn't something I try to shirk. We are happy to start with three points, and have taken a step forward."

Pavel Vrba, Czech Republic coach: "We knew these opponents would be very strong; they were favourites. We knew it would be a test. Spain are better in possession, in creating chances. It's disappointing to concede a goal so late; we could have scored ourselves, which doesn't often happen against Spain. We played at our maximum level and it is a shame not to get at least a point."