An experimental Spain side that began with just one player who started both the finals of the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship laboured to a 2-1 win away to Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Saturday.
All the scoring came in the first half as Santi Cazorla and Juanfran found the back of the net for La Roja, while Jimmy Bermudez pulled one back, and briefly equalized, for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts.
Not surprisingly, Spain dominated the opening exchanges and quite nearly found themselves in front after just eight minutes when Jesus Navas tested goalkeeper Danilo with a long-range lob.
But they would have to wait barely another five minutes before opening the scoring—Santi Cazorla capitalizing on Danilo’s mistake from Juan Mata’s cross and stroking the ball into the gaping net.
Equatorial Guinea, however, managed to settle nicely into the match after falling behind and had a decent chance for an equalizer in the 23rd minute when Javier Balboa was nearly put clean through on goal.
The hosts would tie things up, however, as Bermudez nodded Juvenal’s accurate deliver into the back of the net as the home crowd was thrown into raptures.
But the euphoria wouldn’t last long.
Just two minutes before the break Juanfran put the guests back in front—Danilo once again failing to properly clear a cross before the Atletico Madrid man beat him with a tap-in.
Spain back in front in Equatorial Guinea before half-time thanks to a goal from Juanfran.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 16, 2013
So ended the goalscoring on this occasion, although substitute striker Fernando Llorente had a glorious chance to find the back of the net in the 54th minute after accepting Navas’ diagonal pass but finishing weakly into the arms of Danilo.
Six minutes later the Juventus man should have had another when Andres Iniesta was incorrectly judged offside, although on this occasion it was through no fault of his own that Equatorial Guinea remained just a goal behind.
Ball in the net for Spain, but, confusingly, it's ruled offside. Neither Iniesta nor Llorente looked off.— AS English (@English_AS) November 16, 2013
From there the match became a rather physical affair—Viera Ellong and Diosdado Mbele being presented with yellow cards for overly aggressive tackling.
Key Player Grades
Santi Cazorla: A
In the 58 minutes he played before being replaced by David Villa, Cazorla was one of Spain’s more consistent attacking threats, not only opening the scoring but also creating numerous opportunities for his teammates that may have found their way into goal on another night. Manager Vicente del Bosque will have been pleased with what he saw.
Spanish born Juvenal, who actually plays his club football in Spain for Cornella, looked much younger than his 34 years on Saturday. Whether in buzzing about the midfield and closing down space on the opposition playmakers or setting up his side’s only goal of the match, he will no doubt have been someone Spain will be glad to see the back of.
Long since eliminated from World Cup qualification, Equatorial Guinea will now turn their attention to Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. Spain, meanwhile, will go into the group stage of the World Cup draw but will first face South Africa in another friendly next Tuesday.