The three-time European champions, who were knocked out in the last 16 at Euro 2016, started their qualifying campaign with a narrow 2-1 home win against Norway on Saturday. Atletico Madrid’s on-loan Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata scored both goals as Spain laboured to a Euro 2020 qualifying win in Malta.
With 173 places separating the nations in the world rankings, an experimental Spain side controlled possession but struggled to break down the hosts. Morata slid in from a tight angle in the first half, adding a second with a firm header from Jesus Navas’ cross. Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was barely needed as Spain remain unbeaten.
But they were without their manager Luis Enrique on the sidelines in Malta after the former Barcelona boss travelled back home due to “a family matter of the utmost urgency”. “We ask for discretion and respect for his privacy,” the Spanish Football Federation added in a statement made earlier on Tuesday.
Instead, Enrique’s assistant Robert Moreno took charge of the team – which showed eight changes from Saturday’s narrow win over Norway.
Only skipper Sergio Ramos, forward Marco Asensio and striker Morata kept their places and the new-look side – which contained six players aged 24 or under – lacked fluency in the final third.
Malta, ranked 182nd in the world and rated as the third-worst nation in Europe, deserve credit for their organisation and application, while goalkeeper Henry Bonello also produced several stunning saves.
In the other Group F games, Norway earned a dramatic 3-3 draw against Scandinavian neighbours Sweden, while Romania thrashed the Faroe Islands 4-1.
Source: BBC News