Spain wasteful but Enrique happy with chances created

Spain's defender Sergio Ramos challenging Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein and midfielder Stefan Johansen during their Euro 2020 qualifier at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia. The Real Madrid man delivered the winner with a "Panenka" spot kick in the
Spain's defender Sergio Ramos challenging Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein and midfielder Stefan Johansen during their Euro 2020 qualifier at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia. The Real Madrid man delivered the winner with a "Panenka" spot kick in the 71st minute.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

VALENCIA • Spain coach Luis Enrique has played down his team's profligacy in their Euro 2020 opening qualifier against Norway by taking solace in how many chances they created at the Mestalla.

National daily AS was far from bowled over by the 2-1 win on Saturday, labelling the display as an "improvement without the finishing touch".

La Roja had 11 shots on target with another 15 failing to test the opposition goalkeeper, but the home team's dominance - they had 75 per cent of the ball - could not prevent their opponents, who had just two shots on target, from equalising through Joshua King's penalty.

However, Enrique was still encouraged as his team, who ground out the victory with goals from Rodrigo and skipper Sergio Ramos' "Panenka" spot kick, had done "the difficult thing (which) is to create the chances".

He told reporters post-game: "I was a striker and I know that if the chances are being created, then the goals come."

No player was more wasteful than Alvaro Morata, who squandered a number of opportunities to put the game to bed in both halves.

Enrique defended the much-maligned striker as a player reborn since his loan move to Atletico Madrid from Chelsea in January, before praising his "best game since he has been with the Spain team".

POSITIVE START

A new road starts and what better way than to start winning against an opponent that has made it complicated despite the fact that we had the ball?

SERGIO RAMOS, Spain captain, who scored the penalty to beat Norway 2-1 after the visitors had equalised.

He said: "Morata, along with the other forwards Marco (Asensio) and Rodrigo, have been spectacular because of the work they put in.

"Morata looks much better in terms of confidence. He always has a good attitude, but he looks more confident. He was key for us at the end holding the ball up."

While Spain are expected to ease past Malta, Enrique urged his players to step up as they travel to the Group F minnows tomorrow.

He added: "We need to improve in terms of defending counter-attacks and pressing the ball but, no matter how much you improve, you will always give the team one or two chances, that's football."

And, despite Enrique's backing, Morata could find himself on the bench with Jaime Mata pushing for a first start.

The Getafe striker, who is the top Spanish scorer in LaLiga this season with 13 goals, has played an integral role in his fourth-placed side's unlikely push for a Champions League spot.

Mata replaced Morata in the last minute of the meeting with Norway and, after making his international debut, the 30-year-old is keen to seize his opportunity to be the panacea to the team's scoring woes.

He said: "It's a dream to make my debut, but now I have to work hard to make sure I stay in the team."

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline 'Spain wasteful but Enrique happy with chances created'. Print Edition | Subscribe