Ramos always dependable

Spain's Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Sweden from the spot in their 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. The three-time champions lead Group F by five points.
Spain's Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Sweden from the spot in their 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. The three-time champions lead Group F by five points.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Captain scores, lets Morata take penalty in 3-0 win as Spain take control of Euro group

MADRID • Luis Enrique may still be trying to settle on his best attacking line-up, having experimented with a host of big names up front with varying degrees of success, but he can always count on the one constant - Sergio Ramos.

The Real Madrid defender, who is two appearances shy of equalling Iker Casillas' mark as Spain's most-capped player (167), made it a record-extending 123rd win in 165 games for La Roja, leading them to a 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifying home victory over Sweden on Monday.

The Spain skipper, who has secured the most wins in international football by a player, underlined his importance to Enrique's side as a valuable offensive outlet, scoring his 20th goal for his country and his seventh in his last eight matches at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ramos converted from the spot after Sebastian Larsson blocked a Marco Asensio cross with his arm in the second half to become his country's joint-11th highest scorer alongside Telmo Zarra. He is now three strikes away from surpassing former Argentina international Daniel Passarella as the most prolific defender in international football.

The 33-year-old also showed his leadership qualities by letting substitute Alvaro Morata take the second spot kick after he was taken out in the box.

Mikel Oyarzabal, who also came off the bench, wrapped up the win - Spain's fourth in as many Group F matches - for his first international strike as Enrique's team improved their lead at the top of the table to five points from Romania and Sweden.

Afterwards, Morata hailed Ramos for his "incredible gesture", saying: "I did not even ask him (about the penalty) because Sergio always wants to put (away) all the possible goals. I thank him and he knows what I think of him.

"These matches are more difficult than the result makes them look. We played well, defended well and we are very happy."

Enrique has been absent from the dugout since missing Spain's 2-0 win over Malta in March owing to a family emergency and he was away from the bench again, with Robert Moreno once more left in charge.

However, his assistant coach confirmed he was in constant contact with the former Barcelona boss, insisting that the situation had not affected their preparations.

Moreno, who handed Kepa Arrizabalaga his third straight start in goal ahead of David de Gea, added: "We can still improve in lots of ways. We're looking for perfection.

"In Spain, we don't watch so much foreign football. If they'd seen the end of the season Kepa had (with Chelsea who were third in the Premier League and won the Europa League), nobody would be surprised by our decision."

Elsewhere, Poland hammered Israel 4-0 at home for their fourth consecutive Group G win while Denmark racked up a resounding 5-1 Group D win over Georgia in Copenhagen to get their qualifying campaign back on track after two draws.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2019, with the headline 'Ramos always dependable'. Print Edition | Subscribe