Spain Edge Past Norway At The Mestalla
Goals from Rodrigo and a penalty from Sergio Ramos helped Spain get their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to a winning start against Norway at the Mestalla.
Rodrigo gave Spain a deserved lead after 16 minutes volleying home a cross from Jordi Alba. Luis Enrique’s side created chance after chance but were unable to extend their lead.
On 63 minutes, the Mestalla was stunned into silence as Josh King levelled for Norway from the penalty spot. However, Spain weren’t to be denied an opening victory as a Sergio Ramos panenka penalty, seven minutes later, sealed all three points.
Luis Enrique will be pleased with the victory but will know there is much work to do. They dominated possession but weren’t clinical in front of goal.
Meanwhile, Norway struggled to create chances but will know that the success of their campaign will be earning victories against group rivals Sweden and Romania.
Rodrigo Gives Spain The Lead
Spain got off to a bright start and were dominating possession early on.
On four minutes, a cross into the box by Marco Asensio found Alvaro Morata but his header was straight at Rune Jarstein in the Norway goal.
Spain’s positive start was rewarded after 16 minutes. A great dinked cross into the box by Jordi Alba found Rodrigo who volleyed the ball from close range past Jarstein, to give Spain the lead.
Four minutes later, Luis Enrique’s side almost doubled their lead. A cross from Jesus Navas was almost back-heeled into the net by Rodrigo but was denied by Jarstein in the Norway goal.
Norway were struggling to keep possession and were finding it hard to create any clear cut chances.
However, they should have been level after 31 minutes. A low drilled cross into the box by Markus Henriksen looked like it was going to be bundled into the net by Tarik Elyounoussi.
But the AIK midfielder couldn’t get a clean connection on the ball and ended up diverting ball wide of goal.
Spain almost doubled their lead seven minutes before half time. Sergio Busquets hit a cross into the box, which was flicked just wide by defender Inigo Martinez.
A Tale Of Two Penalties
Luis Enrique’s begun the second half just like they did the first, dominating possession and looked in complete control.
On 59 minutes, Spain created another great chance to double their advantage. A great cross into the box by Dani Ceballos found its way through to Sergio Ramos at the back post.
The Real Madrid defender should have scored but couldn’t keep his volley down, as it sailed over the crossbar.
Spain were left to rue their missed chances as Norway equalised from the penalty spot after 63 minutes.
Inigo Martinez was adjudged to have pulled down substitute Bjorn Johnsen inside the penalty box. The referee had no hesitation but to point to the spot.
Up stepped Bournemouth striker Josh King who coolly slotted the ball past David De Gea to silence the Mestalla.
Three minutes later, Alvaro Morata once again spurned a glorious chance to restore Spain’s advantage. Dani Ceballos clipped a ball into the box. The ball found Morata who was completely unmarked inside the penalty area.
However, the striker’s header went wide when he really should have scored.
Minutes later, Spain had the chance to take the lead. An under hit back pass from Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit set Alvaro Morata in on goal.
The Atletico Madrid striker was then taking out inside the penalty area by Norway keeper Rune Jarstein. Up stepped Sergio Ramos who scored a trademark panenka penalty to restore Spain’s lead.
Spain comfortably held on to begin their campaign with a victory.
Does Luis Enrique Know His Best Team?
Luis Enrique has been in charge of Spain for seven games now and during those seven games he has used an incredible 42 players.
It is fair to say that Enrique is still trying to figure out what his best team is. He certainly hasn’t been scared to make some big decisions.
The likes of Thiago, Koke and Isco all didn’t even make the squad for the games against Norway and Malta. Meanwhile, Enrique called up Jesus Navas after a six year international exile.
That choice proved dividends as Navas was impressive in his new right-back role, which he has played so well this season for his club side Sevilla.
With Zinedine Zidane back in charge at Real Madrid, you would expect Isco to feature more prominently for club and country.
One of the big decisions for Luis Enrique will be who should play up front. Alvaro Morata worked tirelessly and his hold up play was good. However, he wasted numerous opportunities including a free header in the second half.
To win tournaments you need a reliable goalscorer. At the moment, Morata isn’t that.
Key Games To Come For Norway
Norway came into this game in great form, having won eight of their last 10 games. Lars Lagerback side were well organised and worked hard but struggled to create any chances.
They had hope of earning a valuable point after levelling from the penalty spot but made two costly mistakes, which led to Spain’s penalty.
First an under hit back pass by Havard Nordtveit allowed Morata to charge in on goal.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Rune Jarstein in the Norway goal suffered a rush of blood to the head, as he needlessly came charging out of his goal and brought down the Atletico Madrid striker inside the box.
Norway tried to push for an equaliser but couldn’t create another opportunity. Lars Lagerback will know their campaign will boil down to games against Sweden and Romania if they are to qualify for Euro 2020.
Next up, for Norway is Sweden at home on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Spain are away to Malta on the same evening.
Photo credit to SeFutbol via Twitter