Spain extended their lead at the top of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group F after they beat Sweden 3-0 at the Estadio Bernabeu on Monday to remain perfect and go five points clear.
Sergio Ramos converted from 12 yards after Sebastian Larsson's hand-ball inside the box gave Spain a much-needed opener.
Alvaro Morata tucked away a penalty of his own after Filip Helander bundled the forward over inside his box, shortly before substitute Mikel Oyarzabal netted his first senior international goal to make it three in the 87th minute.
Manager Luis Enrique handed a first international start to Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, while Athletic Bilbao's Inigo Martinez returned to partner Sergio Ramos at centre-back. Chelsea stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga came in for David De Gea between the posts.
Janne Andersson started AIK playmaker Larsson for his 113th international cap, moving him within two appearances of Bjorn Nordqvist in eighth on Sweden's list of all-time most capped players.
Spain were denied the opener when Ruiz coaxed a photo-worthy save out of Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen, who went on to make a series of good saves under fierce Spanish pressure.
Eurosport posted a snapshot of the AS Roma stopper's save from Fabian:
Dani Parejo was incorrectly ruled offside when he set up Rodrigo Moreno for a would-be opener in the 16th minute. The Valencia star got in behind the Swedish line to the right byline and side-footed in for Rodrigo to convert from close in, and replays showed defenders on the far side played Parejo on.
The hosts proceeded to build a great advantage in possession and attempts at goal, but the Swedish defence stood firm.
Jordi Alba's tussle with Viktor Claesson earned him a yellow card and resulted in the midfielder going off with an apparent knee injury after a lengthy pause.
Despite racking up 12 attempts on the opposition goal compared to Sweden's two at half-time, Spain were unable to find the breakthrough.
The Bernabeu's unimpressive attendance didn't help the hosts, per The Spanish Football Podcast:
The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast
Halftime at the Bernabeu. Slow start (not helped by half-empty stadium), really livened up 15 mins in, Olsen saving 4 times in quick succession. Then the game started to drift again. Spain lots of possession. Sweden quite limited. 0-0. https://t.co/OiaPnZfQDt
Fan account Swede Stats broke Spain's pressure on the visiting defence into numbers:
Sweden's barriers finally fell in the 62nd minute, however, and it was veteran Larsson whose raised arms in his own area clipped Parejo's cross and gave Spain their opening.
Ramos retained penalty duties and dispatched the spot-kick to Olsen's right. Journalist Dermot Corrigan lauded the central defender's superb scoring record this season:
The Real Madrid talisman now has 20 international goals and at least four more goals than any other player in Enrique's current squad, Morata being closest with 16.
And it was Morata who cut that lead back to four after Helander clumsily tangled legs with the striker. The Chelsea frontman followed Ramos' lead in scoring from the spot, and it wasn't long before Oyarzabal—on in place of Rodrigo—joined in the action.
Fabian drove toward goal and passed to Oyarzabal near the edge of Sweden's area, where he cut onto his left and curled in past Olsen. Corrigan praised both contributors to the goal:
Spain's hold on possession was less dominant in the second half but still accounted for more than 60 percent, with the home side endeavouring hard at the back to repel Sweden's few clear-cut chances.
Marcus Berg struggled for service as a lone striker for periods, and most Swedish movements were cut down before they could build numbers around the box.
Romania are the only team Spain have yet to face in Group F, where Enrique's men now look like shoo-ins to at least secure one of the two automatic qualifying spots.
Euro 2020 qualifying resumes in September when Spain will visit Romania and Sweden travel to face the Faroe Islands.
This article will be updated to provide more information soon.
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