Sergio Ramos Converts Penalty as Spain Beat Norway 2-1 in Euro 2020 Qualifier

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIMarch 23, 2019

Spain's defender Sergio Ramos celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2020 group F qualifying football match between Spain and Norway at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia on March 23, 2019. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images

Spain kicked off their 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over Norway on Saturday at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium.

The hosts completely dominated the first half, but a combination of poor finishing and great goalkeeping from Norway's Rune Jarstein meant they only went in 1-0 up at the break.

Rodrigo was the man to break the deadlock for Spain. The Valencia striker swept home the opener on 16 minutes after a low cross into the penalty area from Jordi Alba.

The chances continued to flow after the break, but Spain could not add to their lead.

They were made to pay for their profligacy just after the hour mark when Norway were awarded a penalty for a foul by Inigo Martinez on Stefan Johansen.

Joshua King made no mistake from the spot, beating goalkeeper David De Gea with a powerful low strike into the bottom corner.

Spain quickly restored their lead with a penalty of their own six minutes later after Jarstein had upended Alvaro Morata.

Captain Sergio Ramos stepped up and produced yet another Panenka to secure the win for the hosts.


Spain's Lack of Cutting Edge Should Worry Luis Enrique

Manager Luis Enrique went for an attack consisting of Rodrigo, Morata and Marco Asensio against Norway, and while the hosts created plenty of chances, they were extremely wasteful in front of goal.

Morata and Rodrigo linked up well together, and the Atletico Madrid striker had a hat-trick of headed opportunities in the first half but could not beat Jarstein.

Rodrigo ought to have added to his opener before the break. The Valencia striker was on the end of a gorgeous team move but could only fire wide from close range:

AS English @English_AS

Spain nearly score an absolutely stunning team goal, but Rodrigo just scuffs the final shot past the post.

The chances continued to flow for Spain after the break. Morata wasted two good opportunities before Ramos came flying in at the far post and side-footed the ball over the bar from close range.

Sports journalist Robbie Dunne offered his view:

Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne

Really impressed with the chances Morata and Rodrigo have had and some champagne football but they really need to finish one of them.

Norway's equaliser saw Spain increase their attacking intensity, but their finishing remained wayward.

They were gifted the lead when Jarstein came flying out of his goal and crashed into Morata, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.

Ramos made no mistake with his spot-kick to continue his fine goalscoring form:

B/R Football @brfootball

Sergio Ramos scores in his fifth consecutive international 🇪🇸🔥 https://t.co/D1tUI9yjV5

Spain should have won more comfortably, and Asensio scooped a late chance over the bar when he really ought to have done better.

Enrique will be relieved to have opened the campaign with a victory, but Spain's lack of cutting edge will concern their manager ahead of Tuesday's trip to Malta.


Jesus Navas Deserves to Keep Right-Back Spot

Enrique's decision to employ 33-year-old Jesus Navas at right-back raised eyebrows ahead of kick-off, but the Sevilla star fully justified his inclusion with an accomplished display:

Oliver Young-Myles @OMyles90

It's 2019 and Jesus Navas is starting for Spain. At right-back. 🧐🧐🧐 https://t.co/OFhKgye46X

The veteran has spent most of his career as a winger but did not look out of place in defence and showed no signs of rustiness despite not having played for the national team in five years:

OptaJose @OptaJose

1844 - Jesus Navas will play his first game for Spain since March 2014 against Italy, 1844 days ago. Return. https://t.co/DHvMzWQRG4

Navas may have celebrated his 33rd birthday in November, but he also shows no signs of slowing down.

His speed and willingness to get forward and join the attack down the right flank were evident throughout the match.

He also produced some quality delivery into the box for Morata and Moreno and was rarely troubled defensively by a timid Norway.

Spain now head to Malta for their second fixture in the group, a match Enrique's side will again be expected to win comfortably.

Navas has shown he fully deserves to keep his place in the team and could prove to be a useful option for Enrique throughout Spain's qualifying campaign.


What's Next?

Both teams play their second Euro 2020 qualifier on Tuesday. Spain are away in Malta, while Norway host Sweden in Oslo.