Spain ran out narrow 2-0 winners against Malta in their second Euro 2020 qualifier, taking them two points clear of Sweden at the top of Group F.
After spurning several big chances against Norway, an occurrence not unnoticed in the Spanish media, it was Alvaro Morata who opened the scoring in the 31st minute with a squeezed finish past Henry Bonello.
However, though the chances were flowing, the overall play was fairly languid from Luis Enrique's men. The second period brought about an increase in tempo, and several high-quality moves, but the finishing was still lacking, with Marco Asensio guilty of several skewed efforts and Morata showing the heading accuracy of a 50p coin.
And yet, by the 73rd minute, that assessment had aged very poorly - with substitute Jesus Navas whipping in a tantalising cross that was powerfully put away by - yes - Morata with - yes - his head.
On the field for just over 10 mins and a beautiful assist from Jesús Navas for https://t.co/erPHZBPZdM— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) March 26, 2019
The Spaniards then saw out the remaining minutes by maintaining the trend of well-worked combination play and profligate finishing, though the result against this resolute Malta side was never in doubt.
Check out our full breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
With just three players retaining their roles from the 2-1 win against Norway, and the majority of those coming in possessing a smattering of caps between them, there was always a chance that the team would take time to gel.
This was only heightened by the fact that they were without their interim coach Luis Enrique in the dugout, after the former Barcelona coach was unable to travel due to personal reasons. Still, 21 shots to zero tells the story of the night in one neat stat - even if it didn't lead to a scoreline along the lines of the 12-1 that had dominated the build up.
121 - Sergio Ramos has now equaled Iker Casillas’s all-time record of 121 wins for Spain (121 wins in 162 apps). Captain. pic.twitter.com/tZddvqthzq— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 26, 2019
With the action largely pedestrian, the greatest unfolding narrative on the night became the goalscoring streak of Sergio Ramos. The captain, whose every touch was booed (either because of the amount of Maltese Liverpool fans, Maltese Barca fans or just because he's a bit of a bad b*stard), has five goals in his last five international games and was overtly desperate to extend this run.
Starting XI: Kepa (6); Roberto (6), Ramos (6), Hermoso (7), Gaya (6); Rodri (6), Saul (5), Canales (5); Asensio (6), Morata (7*), Bernat (6).
Álvaro Morata has immediately enjoyed life again after leaving Chelsea.— Alex Goldberg (@AlexGoldberg_) March 26, 2019
Happy for him, really am. Just wasn’t suited mentally for the Premier League but he still has plenty to offer the game of football.
Substitutes: Navas (6), Munian (6), Rodrigo (N/A).
STAR MAN - As was his occasional wont at Chelsea, Alvaro Morata was pretty wasteful in front of goal. But - and here's where the praise comes in - he never gave up or shied away from the ball, and eventually got his just rewards with a well taken second.
15 - Alvaro Morata has scored 15 goals for Spain, more than any other Spanish player since his debut in November 2014. Hunter. pic.twitter.com/GEqwXclode— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 26, 2019
This takes his overall La Roja tally to 15 goals from 29 games. Yes, that's the most of any Spanish player since his debut in 2014. I mean, it's not Harry Kane level, but it's not bad. Not bad at all.
With no UEFA Nations League semi-final to look forward to, Spain's next bout of Euro 2020 qualifiers will come in June, as they take on the Faroe Islands and Sweden.
Before that, La Liga will resume its rundown this weekend, with table-toppers Barca in action against Espanyol, Real Madrid hosting Huesca in Zinedine Zidane's second game in charge and Atletico Madrid visiting high-flying Alaves.