Spain Labour To Edge Out ‘Stubborn’ Czech

Spain Labour To Edge Out 'Stubborn' Czech

Spain made an unconvincing start to their European Championship defence as Gerard Pique’s late goal gave them a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in Group D in Toulouse.

Vicente del Bosque’s side were utterly dominant over the course of the 90 minutes, having 72 per cent of possession and carving out 18 shots on goal.

Czech number one, Petr Cech was busy keeper but could not stop Pique's free header at goal
Czech number one, Petr Cech was busy keeper but could not stop Pique’s free header at goal

However, they lacked an edge for a large period of the game – their best chance came via Czech defender Roman Hubnik when he played the ball off his own post on the way for a corner.

Pique finally nodded in three minutes from the end to give Spain a deserved victory – but they should have been out of sight long before then.

Gerard Pique heads at goal after beating the watchful Czech defends
Gerard Pique heads at goal after beating the watchful Czech defends

The result means Spain have extended their record unbeaten run at the finals to 13 games and last lost in the tournament to Portugal at the 2004 event.

Based on their first showing in France, however, they will likely need to improve to have a chance of stretching that sequence further.

While they undoubtedly merited their success, Del Bosque’s men lacked imagination in the final third at times.

Alvaro Morata was flagged offside during one early effort, had another well saved by Arsenal’s Petr Cech and then saw a third attempt tipped wide.

Indeed, the Juventus forward was often crowded out by a resolute Czech defence and his fruitless afternoon saw him replaced midway through the second half.

Cech also kept out Jordi Alba and while he was beaten by his own man Hubnik, both were grateful to see the woodwork serve its purpose.

Hubnik had an opportunity at the other end too, getting on the end of a well-delivered free kick only to see David De Gea – playing following allegations about his private life – save comfortably.

Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie saw a header hacked up from under the crossbar by Cesc Fabregas in their only other genuine chance.

Pique is joined by colleague, Sergio Ramos as he celebrates scoring the only goal of the game
Pique is joined by colleague, Sergio Ramos as he celebrates scoring the only goal of the game

Spain kept pressing and threw on Aritz Aduriz, whose overhead kick was spectacular but ultimately off target and offside.

Hubnik did just enough to keep out Alba and after Ladislav Krejci also slid in to deny the Barcelona full-back, it seemed as though the Czechs would hang on to take a point.

Pique made the breakthrough in the closing moments though as Iniesta found him with a delicious cross and his downward header was simple, direct and decisive.

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