De Gea a safe pair of hands despite blunder, says Hierro

Spain goalkeeper David de Gea fumbles the ball from a Cristiano Ronaldo shot which allowed Portugal to go 2-1 up during the Group B match on Friday.
Spain goalkeeper David de Gea fumbles the ball from a Cristiano Ronaldo shot which allowed Portugal to go 2-1 up during the Group B match on Friday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SOCHI • New Spain coach Fernando Hierro said he has "no doubts" about David de Gea after the goalkeeper's mistake cost Spain in their 3-3 draw with Portugal on Friday.

Hat-trick hero Cristiano Ronaldo's second goal just before half-time was down to an error from the Manchester United star, who allowed the shot to slip through his hands.

Despite a stellar season for his club, it was de Gea's third mistake in four games for Spain after errors against Argentina and Switzerland in friendlies led to goals.

"We know that goalkeeper is a special position, with a special psychology, and we have no doubts about him at all. None," said Hierro. "We're a team. We're a family and we will not leave anyone aside. We don't have the slightest doubt about any member of the family."

The 50-year-old has been preaching togetherness since Spain were thrown into crisis the past week when it was revealed that Julen Lopetegui had agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup, prompting the Spanish football federation to sack him on the eve of the tournament.

Hierro, called on to take over the team as an emergency measure, said: "We have to be very proud at the way they overcame adversity. They showed character, conviction, pride and personality."

The former Spain captain admitted before their Group B opener that he would not make changes to Lopetegui's blueprint. But he still had to make two key decisions, and responded by starting Diego Costa up front and picking Nacho to deputise for injured right-back Dani Carvajal.

Costa looked like a misfit at the 2014 World Cup, when Spain's inability to accommodate the burly centre-forward contributed to their disastrous campaign. In Sochi, his physical presence and penalty-box prowess proved effective as he scored twice.

His first was classic Costa, as he left Pepe on the floor before bursting into the area and taking on the Portugal defence alone and slotting a shot low in the bottom corner. His second was a penalty-box effort from a set-piece.

Nacho's sweet strike then gave Spain a 3-2 lead after they twice fell behind to Ronaldo efforts, with Nacho guilty of fouling his Real team-mate in the box ahead of the opening goal.

Costa appears certain to keep his place for Spain's next game against Iran in Kazan on Wednesday.

Said Brazil-born Costa: "I have to work to shut people up. The goals are important but the truth is that I felt good throughout the game."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'De Gea a safe pair of hands despite blunder, says Hierro'. Print Edition | Subscribe