Goals from Sergio Ramos and Paco Alcacer saw Spain extend their 100 per-cent winning record in Group F with a 2-1 win away to Romania.
La Roja’s victory came in their first game since Robert Moreno was confirmed as coach on a permanent basis after Luis Enrique stepped down, the former Barcelona boss this week revealing his nine-year-old daughter, Xana, has died from bone cancer.
Sergio Ramos’ 10th penalty for his country opened the scoring in Bucharest on Thursday, with Paco Alcacer adding Spain’s second early in the second half.
The Euro 2012 winners had to survive a fightback as substitute Florin Andone scored his first Romania goal since 2015, but the hosts could not find an equaliser despite Diego Llorente’s red card late on.
Story of the game
Spain’s intent and incision was evident from the get-go, Ciprian Tatarusanu twice denying Alcacer in the first six minutes, with Ramos and Jordi Alba then both going close. It was a siege on the Romanian goal from the offset, and Tatarusanu was the busiest man on the pitch in the opening exchanges, standing tall to Spain's dominance.
Romania looked to be containing the Spanish pressure until George Puscas’ challenge on Dani Ceballos saw referee Deniz Aytekin point to the spot, with Ramos coolly converting the resulting penalty and sending Ciprian Tatarusanu the wrong way. It was Ramos’ 21st goal for his country, sending him into the top 10 all-time top goalscorers, level with former Real Madrid star Míchel.
Spain’s lead was duly doubled within two minutes of the restart, Arsenal’s Ceballos who got the nod in place of Isco played a sublime outside of the right foot pass to split the Romanian defence, to Jordi Alba, and the Barcelona left-back squared a low cross to Alcacer, who could not miss in front of the empty net. It was a crucial time to go two up.
The Euro 2012 winners had to survive a fightback as substitute Florin Andone scored his first Romania goal since 2015 on 59 minutes. The former Brighton and Hove Albion’s striker headed home from good build up play, and he capitalised on slack Ramos marking to nod home a clever Puscas headed pass beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Spain had to see out the last 11 minutes with 10 men after Diego Llorente clumsily brought down Puscas as he raced through on goal. The Real Sociedad centre-back could have no complaints and took his marching orders.
Kepa brilliantly kept out an injury-time Puscas header with his left leg and that was enough to ensure Spain’s 100 per cent winning start in Group F. The save also perhaps means that should expect to see Kepa remain between the sticks for the visit of the Faroe Islands on Sunday evening.
Moreno off to winning start
Moreno told reporters this week that he would step down should Luis Enrique want to return to the post. Spain were positive and fluid on the ball, dominating possession, with former U21 internationals Fabian Ruiz, Saul and Ceballos all excellent throughout. 41-year-old Moreno is already putting his stamp on the team, starting Jesus Navas at right-back ahead of Dani Carvajal; the Sevilla captain was superb, proving a constant threat for Tosca at left-back. It was La Roja’s toughest game in Group F and Moreno has passed his first test, which will please him as Spain already have their sights on European qualification with 15 points to date.
Romania have it all to do
Cosmin Contra’s side have slipped to fourth in the group, though, thanks to wins for Sweden and Norway. Group F looks like being a straight shoot-out between Sweden and Spain for top spot, with the two sides the obvious favourites to seal either an automatic spot or a play-off place for next summer's tournament. Romania are the dark horses to sneak a top two spot, but on Thursday's showing, that looks increasingly unlikely to happen.
Paco on the mark again
Paco Alcacer perhaps should have scored more goals than his solitary strike. The Borussia Dortmund striker was a dangerous presence in the box and time and time again had chances to add to his only goal of the game. Since the start of the new season, he has scored in every outing for club and country.
Both teams have winnable home games on Sunday. Spain host the Faroe Islands, while Romania welcome Malta.