Spain 3-0 Sweden: Report, Ratings and Reaction as La Furia Roja Take Control of Group F
Spain moved five points clear of second-placed Sweden at the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group, as penalties from Sergio Ramos and Alvarto Morata and a terrific solo goal from 22-year-old Mikel Oyarzabal proved enough to provide a comfortable 3-0 victory.
The first half had little to shout about, with the headline incident coming in the 17th minute, when Spain had the ball in the back of the net. Dani Parejo pulled back for Rodrigo to slot in, but referee Willie Collum deemed Parejo to have initially taken the ball in an offside position, with replays showing the decision to be incorrect.
It didn't deter Spain at all as they continued to control the game, though in doing so failed to create too many chances as they played their football almost exclusively in front of Sweden. A couple of long-range efforts from the enthusiastic Fabian Ruiz gave their Group F rivals something to think about, but their best chance outside of the would-be goal came via a Ramos overhead kick, which tells you a lot about how well Janne Andersson's side were doing their job.
La Furia Roja upped the tempo in the second half, however, looking to translate their near-80% share of possession into a goal or two. After Isco dragged an effort narrowly wide of Robin Olsen's right-hand post, the second breakthrough mercifully came on the hour mark, when Sergio Ramos coolly converted a penalty after Sebastian Larsson handled from Marco Asensio's cross.
Spain virtually didn't relinquish possession from there, and with five minutes remaining, they turned on the style. Alvaro Morata won and converted a second penalty, before fellow substitute Mikel Oyarzabal rounded things off with a superb solo strike, to give Spain complete control over the group.
Key Talking Point
Though they came into the match on maximum points from their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign so far, Spain have flattered to deceive in their recent internationals. They disappointed in the Nations League, before registering unconvincing wins against Norway and Malta to kick off qualifying, and even their 4-1 win against the Faroe Islands last time out left a lot to be desired with regards to their performance.
It was important, then, that they upped their game against a higher calibre of opposition at the Bernabeu on match-day four. In an effort to do so, Luis Enrique made eight changes to the side who took to the field on Friday, with Kepa - who has for now outed David de Gea as his country's first choice - joining Sergio Ramos and Isco as the only survivors.
Despite a drab first half, they were able to do it with relative ease. Ramos converted the first penalty, before showing his first-class leadership skills in allowing Morata - low on confidence after a reasonably poor season - to take the second. Oyarzabal would then show exactly what Spain's next generation is capable of, as he jaunted past three challenges before curling a left-footed effort past Robin Olsen and putting some gloss on the result.
Starting XI: Kepa (6); Carvajal (7), Ramos (7), Martinez (6), Alba (6); Parejo (7), Busquets (7)*, Fabian (7); Asensio (6), Rodrigo (5), Isco (7)
Substitutes: Morata (6), Oyarzabal (7), Llorente (N/A)
STAR PLAYER - Sergio Busquets
The Barcelona man returned to the base of the midfield after being rested in their last outing, and his importance to the side was as clear to see as ever. Though Spain were far from their best, they controlled the game, and Busquets' presence - always at the centre of it - was critical to their game plan.
He dictated the tempo at will, reading the game and slowing things down while necessary, and his calming influence offered security to both the defence behind him and his midfield contemporaries Parejo and Fabian, who were able to play without the shackles of defensive responsibility.
Starting XI: Olsen (7); Lustig (5), Jansson (6), Helander (5), Augustinsson (6); Claesson (5), Larsson (5), Ekdal (7), Forsberg (6); Quaison (5), Berg (5)
Substitutes: Johansson (6), Isak (4), Olsson (N/A)
With this round of qualifiers now concluded, neither side play again until September, with Spain travelling to Romania before facing the Faroe Islands, while Sweden travel to the latter before hosting Scandinavian neighbours Norway.