Spain pulled away from Liechtenstein in the second half to earn an 8-0 win in the first 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match for either team.
Only one goal separated these two sides at halftime, but Spain eventually broke through with a dominant second half, ringing up four goals in a span of 11 minutes.
Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and David Silva scored two goals each in the easy win, with Vitolo and Sergi Roberto also getting onto the scoresheet.
Silva moved up the list of the top Spain scorers ever, with his second goal putting him ahead of Fernando Morientes, per Ben Hayward of Goal.com:
Ben Hayward @bghayward
David Silva is now level with Fernando Morientes on 27 goals for Spain. Only Hierro (29), Torres (38), Raúl (44) and Villa (59) have more.2016-9-5 20:06:23
This was the first competitive game for Spain under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who replaced the successful Vincente del Bosque. While the competition wasn't the best this group will see, La Roja took care of business in a match that counted.
Monday also represented the start of play for Group G, which features Italy, Albania, Israel and Macedonia, in European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The first-place team will qualify for Russia, while the second-place side will likely head to the second-round playoffs.
It will take a lot more for Spain to clinch a spot in the international competition, but getting three points at home was a good start.
Spain came into the day expecting to run up the score against an overmatched opponent, and the first few minutes stood by the script.
Costa needed only 10 minutes to score the opening goal of the match. Koke sent a free kick from the side perfectly into the box, and Costa was able to head it home.
Fox Sports 1 expected the floodgates to open soon after:
GOAL, Spain! That was fast. Diego Costa heads in the opening goal against Liechtenstein. Should be the first of many... #WCQ.2016-9-5 18:55:42
Liechtenstein didn't give in, though, and Spain was unable to add to the lead in the first half. The favorites held more possession and had more chances but couldn't break through as the score remained 1-0 at halftime.
Sid Lowe of the Guardian still gave praise to the Spanish players for their effort in the first 45 minutes:
Sid Lowe @sidlowe
Ht 1-0 to Spain (Costa). Vitolo playing well, ball pinging about (although slower now than at start), Silva good, Costa fast, Thiago Thiago.2016-9-5 19:32:39
Spain seemed to pick up the intensity in the second half, and after a few narrow misses, the ball finally started to find the back of the net.
Sergi Roberto made it 2-0 in the 55th minute, although Kieran Canning of Agence France Presse gave more credit to Nolito on the assist:
Kieran Canning @KieranCanning
2-0 Spain. Lovely pass from Nolito finished off by Sergi Roberto for his 1st intl goal2016-9-5 19:56:28
Nolito replaced Thiago Alcantara at halftime and more than justified his inclusion in the match.
Vitolo and Silva then linked up two times in about a minute to put the game away, as described by Sport:
SPORT English @Sport_EN
Vitolo sets Silva up; then Silva sets Vitolo up. Spain out of sight.2016-9-5 20:01:52
A few minutes later, Costa headed his own rebound into the top corner for his second goal of the match, increasing the lead to 5-0.
Morata replaced Costa in the 69th minute and took on the scoring role, driving in goals in both the 82nd and 83rd minutes. The keeper likely could have stopped them, but at this point, Liechtenstein showed little effort on the defensive end.
Silva continued the rout with a goal in stoppage time on another nice assist from Nolito to make it 8-0.
A game that was potentially in doubt in the 55th minute became one of the most one-sided battles you might see all throughout qualifying.
While the result is important in these matches, Spain also had to quiet concerns that arose after a disappointing performance at the recent European championships. The new coach wanted to see a quality effort more than anything else.
"It is the first competitive match and it has to show that we have the desire to compete," Lopetegui said before the match, per the National. "We need to start strongly in the competition."
Even after a slow start, the second half was everything you would want to see from the former World Cup champions.
"I’m happy with the team’s performance and the three points," Lopetegui said afterward, per Football Espana. "It’s important to start well."
The points were especially key because the next competition won't likely be as smooth. Spain's next qualifying match might be the toughest it will see with a road contest against Italy. The road to Russia is a long one, but the Oct. 6 match will likely be big for both teams.
Liechtenstein will have a much easier matchup against Albania on the same date with the hope of earning some points in the table.
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